Saturday, June 03, 2006

Spirituality Project: An Nawawi’s Forty Hadith

In the last few days, I have been thinking about the decline in my spirituality. This is not to say that my spirituality has only declined in the last few days, but rather to point out that in these last days I have been thinking about the rusted heart I have been carrying around in my chest.

I suppose it goes back more than year or two ago, when I started wearing the beard. As any Muslim these days, when we spot a Muslim with a beard we give them a sort of status that they are “spiritual” or firm on their faith. I suppose I feel into that trap of thinking that with the beard I will somehow be transformed into the perfect believer .

If things were only that easy. Instead I realized that looking like a Muslim is the easy part; living like a true Muslim (one who submits to the will of Allah) is the most difficult thing. For me, I realized this quickly, which is a blessing because some Muslims do not come to this conclusion. Yet I am not happy with just acknowledging a problem...

I want to work towards self-improvement and after many failed attempts in terms of spiritual projects and routines; I am beginning a simple spiritual self-progress program.

I will be reading and providing a summarized commentary of what scholars have said about Imam An Nawawi’s Collection of Forthy Hadith . While I want to stick to explaining what the scholars of Islam have said about the ahadith, I will try to make a connection to their relevance in contemporary affairs.

Imam An Nawawi’s Introduction

To proceed: It has been transmitted to us on the authority of Ali bin Abi Talib, Abdullah bin Masud, Muadh bin Jabal, Abu al-Darda, Ibn 'Umar, Ibn Abbas, Anas bin Malik, Abu Hurairah and Abu Sa'id al-Khudri, may Allah be pleased with them all, through many chains of authorities and in various versions, that the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, said:

"Whosoever memorises and preserves for my community forty hadith concerning matters of this religion, Allah will resurrect him on the Day of Judgment in the company of jurists and religious scholars."

Imam Nawawi notes that the scholars of Hadith are agreed that it is a weak hadith despite its many lines of transmission.
However, Imam Nawawi points out that the scholars of Islam are agreed that it is permissible to put into practice a weak hadith if virtuous deeds are concerned; despite this, Imam Nawawi does not rely on this hadith but on the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, having said the sound hadith:

"Let him who was a witness among you inform him who was absent"

These are reasons alone for anyone to value the study of hadith and Imam Nawawi rightly asserts that “every person wishing to attain the Hereafter should know these hadith because of the important matters they contain and the directions they give in respect of all forms of obedience, this being obvious to anyone who has reflected upon it.”

Reflecting on these words of advice, I think about the lack of knowledge in terms of hadith amongst Muslims these days. I myself do not know any hadith memorized in Arabic. The knowledge I do have of them in the English language is just the hadith without even knowing them precisely word-for-word.

Another important thing to mention is that Imam Nawawi tried to include only authentic hadith in his collection but he included two weak hadith (no. 30 and 41).

Hadith No. 1: Actions are judged by intentions

It is narrated on the authority of Amirul Mu'minin, Abu Hafs 'Umar bin al-Khattab, radiyallahu 'anhu, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, say:

"Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration (hijrah) was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated."

[Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

The scholars of Islam, such as Al-Imam al-Shafie said: “This Hadith is one third of the knowledge of Islam; related to about 70 topics of Fiqh.” Indeed the great scholar of Hadith, Imam Bukhari put this as the first hadith in his Sahih. Ibn Rajab has stated that, “the action itself contains what leads to its acceptance or rejection, according to the intention behind it. Also, the reward or punishment that will follow an action is tied to the intention that led such an action to be good and accepted, or evil and reject.”

There are three benefits from this hadith:
(1) Niyyah (intention) is part of Iman. Niyyah is an action take by the heart (not the tongue – meaning do not utter your intention out loud and announcing it aloud is an innovation).
(2) Actions will be accepted or rejected according to the niyyah that precedes them given that the act is halal to begin with.
(3) Muslims who seek to perform acts of worship must do so with good intention.

To me, this hadith presents a concept that I never appreciated fully and am constantly struggling to perfect. My intention for the sake of Allah. A remember the shock when I learned that Riyyah was a form of shirk! I was afraid that I had preformed that in many of my daily acts of worship towards Allah and had gotten nothing in return.

Perhaps more so in our society, we cannot tell whose intentions are true. I give most people the benefit of the doubt but only Allah knows best.