By Qādī 'Iyād ibn Mūsā
From ash-Shifā - Published by
Madinah Press (1991)
Translated by Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley
The obligation to believe in him
The previous pages provide conclusive evidence of his prophethood and the soundness
of his message. It is, therefore, necessary to believe in him and confirm what he brought.
Allāh says, "Believe in Allāh and His Messenger and the light which He sent
down." (64:8) He says, "We sent you as a witness and a bringer of good news and a warner so that they might believe
in Allāh and His Messenger." (48:8-9) He says, "Believe in Allāh and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet." (7:158)
Belief in the Prophet Muhammad is therefore a necessary obligation for every individual. Belief is not complete without it
and Islām is only valid with it.
Allāh says, "Whoever does not believe in Allāh and His Messenger, We have prepared
a blaze for the unbelievers." (48:13)
Abū Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allāh said, "I was commanded to fight
people until they testify that there is no god but Allāh and believe in me and what I have brought. When they do that, their
blood and their property are protected from me except for a right (they owe). Their reckoning is with Allāh." (Muslim
To believe in the Prophet is to confirm his prophethood and Allāh's message to
him and to support him in all that he brought and said. Corresponding to the confirmation of the heart is testimony with the
tongue - that he is the Messenger of Allāh. The combination of confirmation in the heart with articulation of that testimony
on the tongue constitutes belief in him and confirmation of him as has been related in a version of the hadīth above
from 'Abdullāh ibn 'Umar, "I was commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allāh and that Muhammad
is the Messenger of Allāh." (Muslim and al-Bukhārī)
It is clearer in another hadīth in which Jibrīl is reported as saying, "Tell
me about Islām." The Prophet said, "It is that you testify that there is no god but Allāh and that Muhammad is the Messenger
of Allāh," and he went on to mention the pillars of Islām. Then he asked him about belief and he said, "It is that
you believe in Allāh, His angels, His Books and His Messengers." (Muslim)
He confirmed that belief in the Prophet implies acceptance in the heart while Islām
demands articulation by the tongue. Together they lead to the complete praiseworthy state. The blameworthy state consists
testimony on the tongue without confirmation by the heart. That is hypocrisy.
Allāh says, "When the hypocrites come to you, they say, 'We testify that you
are the Messenger of Allāh,' and Allāh knows that you are His Messenger and Allāh testifies that the hypocrites are liars."
(63:1) i.e. they lie in respect of what they say regarding what they believe and confirm. They do not really believe it. It
their consciousness does not confirm their words, it will not benefit them to say with their tongues what is not in their
hearts. They fall short of belief. They will not benefit by its jurisdiction in the Next World since they do not possess faith.
They will join the unbelievers in the lowest level of the Fire. However, because they give verbal testimony, they are still
judged as Muslims as far as the jurisdiction of this world is concerned, by Muslim Imāms and judges who can only give judgement
according to people's outward display of Islām since there is no way one human being can uncover the secrets of another. They
are not commanded to investigate such people and the Prophet forbade passing judgement on them as unbelievers and censured
doing so, saying, "Why did you not split open his heart?" (Muslim and al-Bukhārī) The difference between what
is affirmed with the tongue and true belief is clarified by the hadīth of Jibrīl - verbal testimony is part of Islām
and confirmation with the tongue is part of belief.
There are other states which lie between these two. One such state is when some
confirms with his heart and then dies before he has had time to testify with his tongue. There is some disagreement about
the states of such a person. Some make it a precondition that he should have completed his faith by verbal testimony. Others
think that he is a believer who will necessarily go to the Garden according to the words of the Prophet, "Whoever has an
atom's weight of belief in his heart my come out of the Fire." (Muslim and al-Bukhārī) The Prophet only mentioned
what was in the heart. A person who believes in his heart is neither a rebel nor negligent by not pronouncing it. This is
the sound opinion regarding this matter.
The second case concerns someone who believes in his heart and then waits a long
time to testify to it even though he knows that it is necessary to do. He does not speak of it or testify to it even once
in his entire life. There are similar disagreements about such a person. It is said that he is a believer because he confirmed
it inwardly. However because testimony is part of required action, he is a rebel for not doing so but will not be in the Fire
forever. It is also said that he is not really a believer until he accompanies his belief with verbal testimony since testimony
is entering into a contract and a requirement of belief. It is directly connected to belief. Delayed confirmation is only
completed by verbal testimony. This is the sounder opinion.
This is a small matter which, however, has been the source of extensive discussion
on the nature of Islām and belief and related subjects, and increase and decrease in them. Is the reward for simple conformation
denied when there is not valid statement? Is it dependant on having action added to it? Or might it appear solely through
its different qualities and various states - strong certainty, resolute belief, clear recognition, a constant state and the
presence of the heart?
To say more on this is beyond the goal of this book. We have said enough for our
purposes here, Allāh willing.
The obligation to obey him
As for the obligation to obey the Prophet, belief in him demands it. Confirmation
of what he brought requires obedience to him because this is part of what he brought. Allāh says, "O you who believe, obey
Allāh and His Messenger ... " (8:20) "Say: obey Allāh and obey the Messenger ... " (24:54) He says, "Obey Allāh
and the Messenger and perhaps you will be shown mercy." (3:132) "If you obey him, you will be guided ... " (24:54)
"Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allāh ... " (4:79) "That what the Messenger brings you and leave what he
forbids you ... " (59:7) "Whoever obeys Allāh and the Messenger is with those whom Allāh has blessed." (4:68) "We
did not send any Messenger but for him to be obeyed by the permission of Allāh." (4:63)
He made obeying His Messenger tantamount to obeying Himself, and He placed obedience
to Himself alongside obedience to His Messenger. Allāh promises that doing this will result in an abundant reward and threatens
a severe punishment for opposing it. He made it obligatory to obey the things that the Prophet commanded and to avoid those
The commentators and Imāms have said that obeying the Messenger means to
cling to his Sunnah and submit to what he brought. They said that Allāh did not send a Messenger without obliging those
to whom he was sent to obey him and that obeying the Messenger in his Sunnah is equivalent to obeying Allāh in His
obligations. Sahl at-Tustarī was asked about the Sharī'ah of Islām and he quoted, "Take what the Messenger brings
As-Samarqandī said that it was said: obey Allāh in His obligations and the Messenger
in his Sunnah. It is also said: obey Allāh regarding what He makes forbidden for you and obey the Messenger regarding
what he conveys to you. It is said that it means to obey Allāh by testifying that He is the Lord and to obey the Prophet by
testifying to his prophethood.
Abū Salamah ibn 'Abdur-Rahmān heard Abū Hurayrah say that the Messenger of Allāh
said, "Whoever obeys me has obeyed Allāh. Whoever rebels against me has rebelled against Allāh. Whoever obeys my Amīir
has obeyed me. Whoever rebels against my Amīr has disobeyed me." (Muslim and al-Bukhārī)
Obeying the Messenger is part of obeying Allāh since Allāh commands that he be
obeyed. True obedience is obedience to Allāh's command and therefore obedience to His Prophet.
Allāh talks about the unbelievers in the depths of the Fire saying, "On the
day when their faces are turned over in the Fire, they will say, 'Would that we had obeyed Allāh and that we had obeyed the
Messenger.' " (33:66) They will wish they had obeyed when the wish will not profit them.
The Prophet said, "When I forbid you to do something, avoid it. When
I command you to do something, then do it as much as you are able." (Muslim and al-Bukhārī)
In the hadīth of Abū Hurayrah we find that the Prophet said, "All of
my community will enter the Garden except for those who refuse to." They asked, "O Messenger of Allāh, who will refuse?"
He replied, "Whoever obeys me will enter the Garden. Whoever rebels against me has refused." (Al-Hākim)
In another sound hadīth the Prophet said, "My likeness and the likeness
of what Allāh has sent me with is like a man who comes to a people and says, 'O people, I have seen the army with my own eyes
and I am a sincere warner, so save yourselves!' One group of his people obey him and they travel at the beginning of the night,
go at their leisure and are saved. Another group reject him and remain where they are and the army arrives in the morning
and wipes them out. Such is the likeness of those who obey me and follow what I bring and the likeness of those who rebel
against me and deny what I bring." (Al-Bukhārī)
In a similar hadīth we find, "It is like someone who builds a house and
lays out a fine feast in it and sends out a summoner. Whoever does not answer the summoner does not enter the house and eat
from the feast." (Muslim and al-Bukhārī)
The house is the Gardens and the summoner is Muhammad, may Allāh bless and grant
him peace. Whoever obeys Muhammad has obeyed Allāh. Whoever rebels against the Messenger of Allāh has rebelled against Allāh.
Muhammad distinguishes between people.
The obligation to follow him and obey his Sunnah
As for the obligation to follow him and obey his sunnah and follow his guidance,
Allāh says, "Say: if you love Allāh, follow me and He will love you and forgive you your wrong actions." (3:31) "Believe
in Allāh and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet who believes in Allāh and His words. Follow him, perhaps you will be guided."
(7:157) "No, by your Lord, they will not believe until they ask you to judge between them in what they disagree about and
then they shall find in themselves no impediment touching your verdict, but shall surrender in full submission." (4:64)
i.e. obey your judgement.
Allāh also says, "You have a good model in the Messenger of Allāh for one who
hopes for Allāh and the Last Day." (33:21) Muhammad ibn 'Alī at-Tirmidhī said, "To take the Messenger as a model means
to emulate him, follow his sunnah and abandon opposition to him in either word or action." Several commentators said
words to that effect.
It is said that this was intended as a criticism of those who fail to follow him.
Sahl said that the āyat from the Fātihah (Sūrah 1), "The path of those whom You have blessed," means to follow
the sunnah. Allāh commands this and promises they will be guided by following him by reason of the fact that Allāh
has sent him with the guidance and the Dīn of the truth to purify them, teach them the Book and the Wisdom, and to
guide them to the straight path.
In the first āyat mentioned, Allāh promises His love and forgiveness to
those who follow the Prophet and prefer him to their own passions and inclinations. Soundness of belief is based on submission
to the Prophet and satisfaction with his judgement and abandoning opposition to him.
It is related from al-Hasan al-Basrī that some people said, "Messenger of Allāh,
we love Allāh," so Allāh revealed, "Say: if you love Allāh, follow me and Allāh will love you." (3:31) It is related
that this verse was revealed about Ka'b ibn Ashraf and others. They said, "We are the sons of Allāh and His beloveds,"
(5:20) and "We are stronger in love for Allāh," (2:165) so Allāh revealed this āyat.
Az-Zajjaj says that the meaning of, "Say: if you love Allāh", is if you
desire to obey Him, then do what He had commanded you to do since the love of the slave of Allāh and the Messenger lies in
obeying both of them and being happy with what they command. Allāh's love for them is His pardon to them and His blessing
them with His mercy. It is said that love from Allāh manifests itself in protection and success. Love on the part of the slaves
manifests and in obedience.
A poet (Al-Mahmūd ibn al-Hasan al-Warraq):
Do you rebel against God when you claim to love Him?
By my life,
this is an extraordinary example!
If your love had been true, then you would have obeyed Him.
obeys the one he loves.
It is said that the slave's love for Allāh is to exalt Him and be in
awe of Him, and the love of Allāh for him is His mercy to him and His beautiful concern for him. It can also mean praise.
Al-Qushayrī said, "When love means mercy, desire and praise, it is one of the attributes of Allāh's essence." More will be
said concerning the slave loving something else by the power of Allāh.
Al-'Irbād ibn Sarriyah relayed the warning of the Prophet, "You must
follow my sunnah and the sunnah of the Rightly-Guided Khaliphs. Cling to it fiercely and beware of new things. These new things
are innovations, and every innovation is misguidance." Jābir added, "Every misguidance is in the fire." (Muslim)
Abū Rafi' reported that the Prophet said, "Do not let any of you
be found reclining on his bed when he hears an injunction from me which is from among those things which I myself commanded
or forbade so that he says, 'I do not know. We only follow what we find in the Book of Allāh.' " (Ash-Shafi'ī in al-Umm,
Abū Dāwūd, at-Tirmidhī and Ibn Mājah. A sound hadīth)
'Ā'isha said, "The Messenger of Allāh did something as an example in
order to make things easier for people but some people still refrained from doing it. When the Prophet heard about that, he
praised Allāh and said, 'What do you think of people who refrain from anything that I myself do? By Allāh, I am the greatest
of them in knowledge of Allāh and the strongest of them in fear of Allāh.' " (Muslim and al-Bukhārī)
It is related that the Prophet said, "The Qur'ān is hard and difficult
for anyone who hates it. It is judgement. Whoever clings to what I say and understands it and retains it, then it will be
like the Qur'ān for him. Whoever considers the Qur'ān and what I say unimportant and neglects it loses this world and the
Next. My community is commanded to take my words and obey my commands and follow my sunnah. Whoever is pleased with my words
is pleased with the Qur'ān. Allāh says, 'Take what the Messenger brings you.' " (59:7) (Abū'sh-Shaykh,
ad-Daylamī and Abū Nu'aym from al-Hakam ibn 'Umayr)
The Prophet said, "Whoever follows me is of me and whoever
wants to abandon my sunnah is not of me."
Abū Hurayrah said that the Prophet said, "The best is
the Book of Allāh and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. The word matters are innovations."
It is related from 'Abdullāh ibn 'Amr ibn al-'Ās that the Prophet said,
"There are three types of knowledge - any other knowledge is superfluous - a precise āyat, an established sunnah or a just
share (of inheritance)." (Abū Dāwūd and Ibn Mājah)
Al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan said that the Prophet said, "Doing a little
of something which is a sunnah is better than doing a lot of something which is an innovation." (Ad-Dārimī)
The Prophet said, "Allāh will bring a man into the Garden
by the fact that he clings to my sunnah."
Abū Hurayrah said that the Prophet said, "The one who clings to my
sunnah when the community is corrupt will have the reward of a hundred martyrs." (At-Tabaranī)
The Prophet said, "The Banu Isrā'īl split into about seventy-two
sects. My community will split into seventy-three. All of them will be in the Fire except for one." They asked, "Who are
they, Messenger of Allāh?" He replied, "Those who base themselves on what I and my Companions are doing today." (At-Tirmidhī)
Anas reported that the Prophet said, "Whoever brings the sunnah to
life has brought me to life. Whoever brings me to life will be with me in the Garden." (Al-Isbahānī)
'Amr ibn 'Awf al-Muzanī said the Prophet told Bilāl ibn al-Hārith, "Whoever
brings to life any of my sunnah which has died after me will have the reward of all those who act by it without decreasing
their reward in any way. Whoever introduces a misguiding innovation which does not please Allāh and His Messenger will have
the like of all those who act by it without that decreasing their burden." (At-Tirmidhī, Ibn Mājah considers
What is related from the Salaf and the Imāms about following
his Sunnah, taking his guidance and the Sīrah
A man from Khalid ibn Asid's family asked 'Abdullāh ibn 'Umar, "Abū 'Abdur-Rahmān!
We find the fear prayer and the prayer at home in the Qur'ān, but we do not find the travelling prayer." Ibn 'Umar said, "My
newphew, Allāh sent Muhammad to us when we did not know anything. We do as we saw him doing."
'Umar ibn 'Abdul-Azīz said, "The Messenger of Allāh made a Sunnah and the
people in command after him made Sunnahs. To adopt them is to confirm the Book of Allāh and to act on them is to obey
Allāh and strengthen the Dīn of Allāh. It is not for anyone to change the Sunnah or alter it or to look into
the opinion of those who oppose it. Whoever follows it is guided. Whoever seeks help by it will have victory. Whoever opposes
it and follows other than the path of the believers, Allāh will entrust him to what he turns to and will roast him in Jahannam,
which is a bad ending." (See 4:115)
Al-Hasan ibn Abil-Hasan said, "A little action following a sunnah is better
than a lot of action following an innovation."
Ibn Shibab said, "It has reached us that some of the people of knowledge said,
'Holding fast to the sunnah is salvation.' "
'Umar ibn al-Khattab wrote to his governors telling to learn the Sunnah,
the shares of inheritance and the dialects, saying, "People will try to argue with you (i.e. by using the Qur'ān), so overcome
them with the Sunnah. The people of the Sunnah have the greatest knowledge of the Book of Allāh."
When 'Umar prayed two ra'kāts at Dhul-Hulayfah (the miqāt for the
people of Madīnah on their way to Hajj), he said, "I do as I saw the Messenger of Allāh doing."
When 'Alī joined the hajj and 'umrah together, 'Uthmān said to him,
"Why do you do this, when you know that I have forbidden the people to do it?" He replied, "I don't abandon a sunnah
of the Messenger of Allāh for the statement of anyone."
'Alī said, "I am not a Prophet nor have I received revelation, but I act according
to the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad as much as I can."
Ibn Mas'ūd used to say, "Doing a little of the Sunnah is better than striving
hard in innovation."
Ibn 'Umar said, "The travelling prayer is of two ra'kāts. Whoever opposes
the Sunnah is an unbeliever."
Ubayy ibn Ka'b said, "You must follow the path of Allāh and the Sunnah.
There is no slave who is on the path of Allāh and the Sunnah, remembering Allāh, his eyes overflowing out of fear of
his Lord, but that Allāh will never punish him. There is no slave on the earth who is on the path of Allāh and the Sunnah,
remembering Allāh, his skin trembling out of fear of Allāh, but that he is like a tree whose leaves are dry. In the same way
that a tree loses its leaves when a strong wind hits it, his errors fall from him as the leaves are shaken from the tree.
A minimal course in the path of Allāh and the Sunnah is better than striving hard in a path contrary to the path of
Allāh and the Sunnah and consenting to innovation. See that your actions - whether they are striving or minimal - are
on the path of the Prophets and their sunnah."
One of the governors of 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-Azīz wrote to him about the bad conditions
and the great number of thieves in his territory. Should he arrest them on mere suspicion or only with clear proof in accordance
with the Sunnah? 'Umar wrote to him, "Arrest them only with clear proof in accordance with the Sunnah. It the
truth does not put them right, Allāh will not put them right."
'Ata' said that the words of Allāh, "If you quarrel over something, then refer
it back to Allāh and His Messenger," (4:58) means that you should consult the Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of the
Messenger of Allāh in cases of disagreement.
Ash-Shafi'ī said, "The Sunnah of the Messenger of Allāh consists only in
When 'Umar looked back at the Black Stone, he said, "You are a stone and can neither
help nor harm. If I had not seen the Messenger of Allāh kiss you, I would not have kissed you." Then he kissed it.
'Abdullāh ibn 'Umar was seen making his she-camel turn round in a particular place
and was asked why. He said, "I don't know. I once saw the Messenger of Allāh doing it, so I do it."
Abu 'Uthmān al-Hirī said, "Whoever gives the Sunnah authority over himself
in word and deed speaks with wisdom. Whoever gives passion authority over himself speaks by innovation."
Sahl at-Tustarī said, "The bases of our school are three: following the Prophet
in character and actions, eating from what is lawful, and making our intention sincere in all actions."
It has come that Allāh's words, "The right action, He raises it up, " (35:10)
refer to following the Messenger of Allāh, may Allāh bless him and grant him peace.
It is related that Ahmad ibn Hanbal said, "One day I was with a group who stripped
off all their clothes and went into the water. I applied the hadīth, 'Whoever believes in Allāh and the Last Day should only
enter the baths with a wrapper.' I did not strip. That night I dreamt that someone said to me, 'O Ahmad, Allāh has forgiven
you because of your application of the Sunnah and He had made you an Imām who will be followed.' I said, 'Who are you?' He
replied, 'Jibrīl.' "
The danger of opposing his command
Opposing his command and changing his Sunnah is misguidance and innovation.
It is threatened by Allāh with utter bereftness and punishment.
Allāh says, "Let those who oppose his command beware of a trial that might strike
them or a painful punishment that might befall them." (24:63) and "Whoever splits from the Messenger of Allāh after
the guidance is clear to him and follows other than the path of the believers, We shall entrust him to what he has turned
Abū Hurayrah said that once the Messenger of Allāh went to visit some graves and,
while there, described his community, saying, "Some men will be driven away from my Basin as a stray camel is driven off.
I will call to them, 'Come here! Come here!' It will be said, 'They made changes after you.' Then I will say, 'Get away! Get
away!' " (Muslim, Mālik, Abū Dāwūd and an-Nasā'ī)
Anas related that the Prophet said, "Anyone who dislikes my sunnah is not of
me." (Muslim and al-Bukhārī)
The Prophet said, "Anyone who adds something to my commands which is not part
of them is a renegade." (Muslim and al-Bukhārī)
Ibn Abī Rafi' related from his father that the Prophet said, "Do not let any
of you be found reclining on his bed when he hears an injunction from me which is from among those things which I myself have
commanded or forbidden so that he says, 'I do not know. We only follow what we find in the Book of Allāh.' " He added
a version of the hadīth from al-Miqdām, "What the Messenger of Allāh makes unlawful is like what Allāh makes unlawful."
(Abū Dāwūd, at-Tirmidhī and Ibn Mājah)
Once when some writing on a shoulder-blade was brought to him, the Prophet said,
"People are stupid enough to dislike what their Prophet has brought them, preferring someone else to their own Prophet
or another book to their book." So it was revealed, "Or is it not enough for them that We sent down the Book on them
which is recited to them?" (29:51) (Abū Dāwūd, ad-Dārimī, Ibn Jarīr and others)
The Prophet, may Allāh bless him and grant him peace, said, "Those who go to
extremes in speech will be destroyed." (Muslim via Ibn Mas'ūd)
Abū Bakr as-Siddīq said, "I have not omitted doing anything that the Messenger
of Allāh used to do. If feared that I would deviate if I left out any of his commands."