This lecture revolves around the ḥadīth of the Ṣaḥābī, Jābir ibn Sulaym (raḍiAllāhu ʿanhu), and the account of his very first meeting with the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ). It is an important ḥadīth for people who wish to call to, and welcome a new Muslim to Islam. It is an example of how one should treat a new Muslim whose knowledge of the basics of Islām is deficient, outlining the obligations and methods of wisdom to be used in calling to Allāh’s religion; all of which can be gained and benefitted from in this ḥadīth of the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ).
The ḥadīth is reported by Imām Abū Dāwūd in his Sunan, he (Jābir ibn Sulaym) narrates: I saw a man whose opinion was held in high regard by the people, he would not voice an opinion except that they would carry out his opinion. So I said, ‘Who is this man?’ It was said, ‘This is the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ)’. So he went to the Messenger and said, ‘ʿAlayka al-Salām, yā Rasūl-Allāh’. The Prophet (ﷺ) responded by saying, ‘Do not say ‘ʿalayka al-Salām’, for indeed it is the greeting of the dead, rather say, ‘Assalāmu ʿalayk.’ Jābir (raḍiAllāhu ʿanhu) then said, ‘You are the Messenger of Allāh?’, to which the Messenger (ﷺ) responded, ‘I am the Messenger of Allāh, the One who, if any harm befalls you, you call upon Him and He removes the harm, and if a year of drought reaches you, call on Him and He sends down the rain to bring forth vegetation; and He is the One who if you are lost in a land with no water, a barren desert, and your riding beast strays away from you, then you call upon him and He is the One who will return your riding beast to you and save your life.’
So, Jābir upon hearing this said, ‘Give me something to hold to’, the Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘Do not insult anyone’ (Jābir mentions, ‘So after that I insulted no free man, no slave, no camel and no sheep’). ‘Do not look down upon any good deed you may do, and for you to address your brother while you have a smile on your face is a kind of goodness. And raise your lower garment to half way up your calf, and if you refuse that, then to the level of the ankle, and be warned against Isbāl (dragging the garment on the ground) for it is a kind of arrogance, and Allāh does not love arrogance; and if a person insults you, abuses you and accuses you of something he knows about you (i.e mentions a fault of yours), then do not mention a fault of his, and the bad effect of what he has done will be upon him.'” [End ḥadīth]
Our noble teacher and elder mentions 22 important lessons which can be derived from this ḥadīth:
- The fact that the Messenger used to not stand out with any exceptional clothing. He used to wear the clothing of the people, and if he were presented with a gift, he would wear it instantly. He was humble and did not wear royal or eccentric clothing. So Jābir (raḍiAllāhu ʿanhu) was not able to recognise him as the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) by his clothes, he only recognised him due to the fact that when he issued an opinion, everyone carried it out. Often people would come seeking the Messenger and he would be sitting with his companions and they would have to ask, ‘Which one of you is the Messenger of Allāh?’ Due to his appearance, one would not be able to distinguish him from his companions.
- He would issue an opinion and the companions would hasten to carry it out. This observation of Jābir’s was before he knew that the Messenger was actually teaching them the religion and not giving his opinion for them to follow. However, this observations shows that the companions (raḍiAllāhu ʿanhum ajmaʿīn) were adhering and obedient to the Messenger (ﷺ), taking everything that he said and implementing it.
- The importance of giving the greetings of Salām properly: Jābir did not know how to extend the greetings correctly, and so the Prophet (ﷺ), realising this put him in the category of a new Muslim who was in need of basic information about Islām. So this sets the tone for the ḥadīth, in that all of the things mentioned are going to be appropriate for a new Muslim.
- The Prophet (ﷺ) advised him to say ‘Assalāmu ʿalayk’. Some scholars have mentioned that this shows that if you are addressing a singular person, (male) then you should say ‘Assalāmu ʿalayka’, if it is a singular female, ‘Assalāmu ʿalaykī’, if there are two people being greeted, then ‘Assalāmu ʿalaykuma’ and so on rather than greeting an individual with ‘Assalāmu ʿalaykum’, but rather extend the greeting of Salām in the grammatically correct way, and this is the opinion of Shaykh ʿUthaymīn (raḥimahullāh) given in his explanation of Riyādh al-Ṣāliḥīn regarding this ḥadīth, even though both ways of greeting are permissible.
- Regarding the meaning of the statement ‘ʿalayka al-Salām’ being the greeting of the dead people: The Prophet (ﷺ) established the sunnah of greeting the dead when visiting the graveyards. Al-Khaṭṭābī, who wrote the explanation to Sunah Abū Dāwūd said ‘ʿalayka al-Salām’ is not the greeting for the dead when visiting the graveyard. Rather this was the custom of the people of jāhilīyyah before Islām, that they would begin their poetry by praising the dead or making remembrance of a dead person by saying ‘ʿalayka al-Salām yā fulān’ in praise of the dead.
- The Messenger (ﷺ) was patient upon the rough manners of those would come to learn about Islām. The companions had already informed Jābir who the Messenger of Allāh was, but when he approached him he still said, ‘You are the Messenger of Allāh?’, this is a display of inappropriate manners. The Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) was humble, and didn’t rebuke him, rather he was patient with him and welcomed him and spoke with him, teaching him many very important issues related to his dīn and was patient when dealing with bad manners or incorrect practices.
- The Prophet (ﷺ) was asked about himself, and this is very important for the caller to Islām. When the Messenger was asked about who he was, he responded by directing the questioner’s attention to Allāh rather than mentioning his full name and lineage, which he could have done as he was somebody who was well respected. However, he takes the opportunity to give the questioner information that he is more in need of; he is more in need of knowing who Allāh is. So he changes the direction of the question and draws attention instead, to Allāh.
- When, as a caller to Islām, a person approaches you and addresses the way you look or what you are wearing, the way of wisdom in giving daʿwah is to redirect their attention to what is important – back to Allāh and tawḥīd.
- When the Messenger turned the questioner’s attention to Allāh, he did it in a manner in which he mentioned three examples, or three instances of when a person is in dire need and calls upon Allāh. As a regular daily habit, some people have many intercessors whom they call upon, however in dire times of need they will call upon Allāh alone as part of their fitra. So the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) describes to a new Muslim that Allāh is the One you call upon.
- It is understood from the Prophet’s statement ‘Do not say ʿalayka al-Salām’, the importance of giving somebody a permissible alternative to something when giving them a prohibition. An alternative which is proper and appropriate, and to also teach them the reason why that thing is prohibited if it is known.
- The Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) would mention things in three’s.
- When giving daʿwah, use real life examples people can relate to.
- Jābir’s statement ‘Give me a set (of legislation) to hold on to’, shows that when someone is reminded about Allāh, he is ready to receive information about matters which are ḥalāl and ḥarām.
- Shows the importance fo putting forth tawḥīd before matters pertaining to ḥalāl and ḥarām. Once the people accept tawḥīd, you will find that they accept it because they love Allāh and want to please Allāh, and an example of this is when the Messenger (ﷺ) advised Jābir not to insult anyone, and he mentions that from that point he insulted no person or animal.
- The prohibition of insulting others in general. Specifically insulting a Muslim is even more impermissible, the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) said insulting a Muslim is fusūq and killing him is kufr, as is mentioned in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and Muslim, narrated by Ibn Masʿūd (raḍiAllāhu ʿanhu).
- Insulting Allāh is prohibited, and that is saying unbefitting things and to question His legislation. It is impermissible to insult Dahr – to say ‘I have had a bad day or night’, since it is narrated that Allāh says, ‘The son of Adam insults Me by insulting time, I am time, in My Hand is day and night.’ Rather say, Qadr Allāh wa mā shā afʿal, and speak good or remain silent.
- A Muslim should not insult dead people as a general rule. ‘Do not insult the deceased, for verily they have gone off to what they have put forth for themselves.’ (Bukhārī)
- It if specifically forbidden to insult the companions, as they have a very honoured and noble status in Islām. The Prophet (ﷺ) said ‘Do not insult my companions…if one of you were to give the amount of ʿUhud in gold, you would not reach a mudd (handful) of charity given by them. (Bukhārī and Muslim)
- The companions were a people of conviction and sincerity, their deeds were beloved to Allāh and He rewarded them with tremendous and bountiful rewards, and they have a high status with Allāh. The Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘When my companions are mentioned then withhold’, therefore we do not mention any of their sins or shortcomings.
- A general order or prohibition remains general unless there is a specific text. Jābir understood the Messengers prohibition of insulting others to be a general one.
- The principle concerning insulting the people of innovation: the Salaf would not have respect for the innovators, and it is permissible to insult them in order to make the people realise their evil.
- Do not look down on any good deed however small.
- The importance of having good character by smiling at your companion, and this is a kind of maʿrūf.
- Teaching people how to dress correctly in their daily lives, which can be gauged through the Messengers order to raise the garment above the ankles.
- The 6th century scholar, Ibn al-ʿArabī, in his explanation of Sunan al-Tirmidhī mentions the issue of one who claims that he does not wear his clothes out of arrogance, the isbāl includes the dragging of the thowb, and dragging the thowb necessitates arrogance in itself, even if the person wearing the clothing did not intend arrogance, and the draggin of the garment is a violation of the Sharīʿah.
- The obligation to guard one’s tongue, and not to respond to a person’s insult with another insult.