Muslim Marriage: Husbands, Know Your Rights

Too many times a man and woman enter into marriage without knowing their responsibilities towards each other, and their individual rights. We must mention again that marriage is a contractual agreement therefore the general rule is that if problems occur down the line into the marriage it is usually because the marriage broke down at this contractual level.
Qawwam is on men, the right of maintenance. This mostly relates to children as each child needs approximately 12 years before it’s ‘on its own’. A child does not move into independence immediately so for the first few years it’s almost completely at the mercy of its parents. Men, in Islam have to afford women the ability to maintain children; this is rooted in the tradition of ‘what is best’ from Allah. So even before people argue ‘well I don’t believe that Muslims must be committed to these roles that are defined by Allah.
There are two qualities of Islam that distinguish it from others = Hayaa, which is modesty, and Rahma – Mercy. A beautiful teaching is that you will get RAHMA if you have HAYAA. As humans even if you do wrong, you do them in secret right? You have hayaa by nature. And you know inshaAllah He will forgive you if you say ‘astaghfirullah’. These qualities are natural to women, but they’re acquired in men. Ironically in contemporary culture it’s seen as a disease if you’re modest or shy. See, what Islam does is flip that to the correct ethos; the beauty of the house is where this hayaa is meant to be nurtured in children. Mothers teach them to be merciful towards other children, towards animals, to have respect for property and toward others. We all need to learn how to teach compassion in our children and by Allah’s design, women are more inclined to show compassion towards children.
Right, first we’ll list and explain the rights of the husband in the Shariah – Islamic law, inshaAllah, since, let’s face it, he doesn’t have many in comparison to his wife. But they are still of high importance and need to be understood for a successful marriage.
[1] The 1st right a man has is the right to sexual pleasure. If a woman is not menstruating she should not refuse her husband’s call to intimacy. Abu Hurayrah (ra) said: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “If a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses, and he spends the night angry with her, the angels curse her until morning.” Al-Bukhaari and Muslim. Sheykh Hamza Yusuf says in the original Rights and Responsibilities CD collection: “While a woman should provide herself sexually, the husband should take into consideration her state; women are willing to give up their right, so a man should have that largess that sometimes it’s inappropriate”.
Men are more visually stimulated than women. In accordance with the hadith, if a man sees a woman when he’s out and feels a desire let him go to his wife, because the ‘outsider’ is not halal, the ‘ghar wali’ is halal! Please note this is a shared right, both husband and wife must treat each other well, with good words, love, this is more conducive to intimacy. Intimacy is not just a perfunctory act, there is much more to than just fulfilling desire, not recognising this is uber bad and reduces the act to basic instinct.
[2] Husband’s 2nd Right = to discipline children. Women tend to be more compassionate towards children’s upbringing and learning which is where men can lay down firmer rules. You still have to be really careful when disciplining anyone; remember the hadith that you are a shepherd – a shepherd is compassionate and merciful towards his flock. He does not beat the animals, he knows he can easily get his flock to follow his direction with the correct approach, care and firmness. Children don’t have any ‘taqli’, understanding, so especially before the age of 7 there should never be any physical warning. You can pinch an older child to get their attention, you shock them by raising your voice. Beating is flat out haram too. Nobody should be hit; discipline is not violence.
[3] Husband’s 3rd Right = to house his wife in his house. As a husband you need to say you’re living in a small house or mansion; nobody wants to get married to a man who lies. And as a potential wife you should know whatcha getting into; it’ll be an awful shame if you marry a man who tells you he owns his own housing estate and then find he takes you to a one bedroomed flat with ‘welcome home!’
In Muslim marriage the woman is obliged to relocate with her husband by the contract. Some conditions apply:
  • A) If the wife was not given a dowry, she does not have to relocate.
  • B) If it’s known that the husband isn’t trustworthy or he has a violent nature etc, she doesn’t have to move away from her family and friends.
  • C) If the land to where she’s moving is dangerous, for instance emigrating from a Muslim country to a non Muslim country, or one in which there is war and conflict, she is not obliged to move.
  • D) Lastly, if the wife is not capable of maintaining contact with her family in the new location – by this we mean being able to see them, talk to them – she is not obliged. A woman has the right to refuse on these grounds, the relocation cannot harm her in anyway, if it does she can stay put.
[4] Husband’s 4th Right = to have his house maintained.This is a rewarding “domestic service”. In the Maliki madhab a wife should not refuse daily domestic chores, while in the Hanafi madhabthere is more emphasis on the ‘religious’ reward of housework. This is on the grounds that women are not working outside of the home. Their maintenance covers – bread-making, sweeping, bed making, bringing water back if needed (note – this still applies to large part of world). Back to the Maliki madhab; if a woman has one of the 4 qualities, her status is elevated and she should be given domestic help. Most wonderful in Muslim history is the beautiful model we have in Fatima (ra) the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), who asked for help for her home, and he (ﷺ) replied ‘make dhikr’.
The wife is not responsible for anything involving a craft or work that is normally done for a wage. So no sewing, no fixing electrical wiring, no painting walls or retiling the roof. If she wants to do these things – hurray! Also the husband has no right to force his wife to work outside of home or do work associated with craft work – wage work. Of course a husband should help with his wife’s work. This is seriously underestimated in Muslim culture. Our greatest role model Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) kneaded bread, he sewed his own clothes, washed dishes and carried out many other chores. Don’t consider a household chore a waste of time, it’s not degrading, it’s not pointless. ‘Aisha (ra) said that the Prophet (ﷺ) did “mehna” for his family – ‘mehna’ coming from ‘degrading’, BUT the Prophet (ﷺ) never did anything degrading. These are chores that people thought as degrading, what ‘Aisha (ra) is saying here that he (ﷺ) did them for his family. These menial tasks that we see as insignificant – even the Prophet (ﷺ) did that. If you make the intention for Allah, you complete a Sunnah! It’s a noble act to maintain your own home with sincere intentions.

When the Wife is Unhappy With the Husband

Qur’an 4:34 (Surah Nisa, ayah 4) gives some guidance as to how to deal with marriage difficulties when husbands feel that their wives are being deliberately nasty to them. The Holy Qur’an also gives guidance for cases when it is the wife who thinks that she is being mistreated and feels unhappy about it.

In this connection it must, first of all, be clearly understood by all Muslims that the Holy Qur’an unequivocally prohibits keeping women in wedlock against their will. In Surah al-Baqarah, verse 231, it is said:

“And do not retain them (i.e. women) in wedlock against their will in order to hurt them. He who does such a thing indeed sins against himself. And do not take the signs of God lightly…”

And in Surah an-Nisa verse 19 we read:

“O YOU who have attained to faith! It is not lawful for you to [try to] become heirs of your wives [by holding onto them] against their will.”

These verses appear in some particular contexts but they clearly contain the principle (also found in Hadith) that women can be brought into the marriage relationship and kept in that relationship only if they want to do so.

In some cultures, including parts of the Muslim world, women are sometimes beaten by their relatives into marrying men of the relatives’ own choice or beaten to stay in the marriage bond. Those who do that commit a sin and unless forgiven by the women concerned will be punished by hell-fire in the hereafter.

It is true, as we have seen in another article, that husbands can lightly beat their wives when they show prolonged and deliberately nasty behaviour but such beating can be done only when the intention to stay in the marriage bond is intact on the part of both the husband and the wife. The moment the wife makes up her mind that she does not wish to remain in the marriage bond and she clearly expresses this decision on her part, the husband ceases to have any justification in the sight of God to beat her.

It is not only by physical force that women are sometimes kept in marriage against their will. More often it is social or economic pressures that are used, consciously or unconsciously, to keep them tied in the unwanted relationship. In Surah an-Nisa’ the Book of God combats such social and economic pressures:

“If a woman fears ill-treatment (mushuz) or indifference (i’radh) from her husband, it is not wrong if (at her initiative) the two set things peacefully to right between themselves; for, peace is best, and selfishness is ever present in human souls. But if you do good and are conscious of Him, behold, God is aware of all that you do… If the two break up, God provides everyone out of His abundance, for God is resourceful, wise.” (4:128-130)

In many cultures, including the Muslim culture, it is considered taboo on the part of a woman, especially if she is of “noble” (sharif) descent, to express unhappiness with marriage and to try to do something about it (except in cases of extreme cruelty on the part of the husband). This type of attitude is part of the social pressure which is used to keep women suppressed. The Qur’an says that if a woman feels that her husband is too indifferent to her, i.e. does not give enough love to her or mistreats her and she is therefore unhappy, there is nothing wrong if she initiates steps to change the situation.

It should be noted that whenever the Qur’an says “there is nothing wrong” or “it is not wrong” (la junaha), it means to fight certain social taboos and established psychological attitudes. In the above passage it is fighting the attitude which expects women to continue in the marriage bond as the husbands keep them regardless of whether the wife is reasonably happy or not.

The first step that a woman should take to change her marriage situation, if she is unhappy with it, is, of course, to “talk it out” with her husband. This may lead to one of two things: a greater understanding between the two resulting in a satisfactory change in the husband’s attitude or a mutual decision to dissolve the marriage bond (with the wife possibly returning par of the dowry (2:229)). Such peaceful settling of matters is beautifully encouraged in the words

“peace is best, and selfishness is ever present in human soul. But if you do good and are conscious of God, behold, God is aware of all that you do.”

Selfishness is accepted here as an inevitable condition of the human soul, so we are not expected to altogether get rid of it. What we are expected to do is to balance our selfishness with God consciousness and consideration for others. This means that we should pursue our self-interests within the limits set by God for our own good and also do something for others instead of being all the time concerned with ourselves.

It is in such a spirit that the husband and wife should discuss their marriage difficulties. Both have the right to expect happiness from the marriage relationship but each of them should seek happiness with consciousness of God and some concern for the happiness of the other partner in marriage. If the husband is not inclined to discuss things in this spirit and continues to mistreat the wife, then the wife can go to an Islamic court which must then impose a settlement on the husband on just terms. This is because it is the duty of Islamic courts to enforce the law of God and deal with all forms of zulm (injustice).

The Holy Qur’an wishes to make it socially acceptable for a wife to seek a change in her marriage situation if she feels that her husband mistreats her or is indifferent to her. But social acceptability alone is not enough; for, as noted earlier, tied with social taboos are economic considerations that often pressure the woman to accept her unhappy marriage situation. The Qur’an says that this should not be the case. It reminds all the concerned persons – the wife, the husband and relatives that:

“God provides everyone out of His abundance, for God is resourceful, wise” (4:130)

If all attempts on the part of the wife to establish a reasonably happy and dignified relationship with her husband fail and breakup of the marriage is the only option, then this option should not be rejected only for economic reasons. Let the wife and her relatives trust in God who is the real provider of all. Marriage should be viewed primarily as a love relationship (30:21) and not as an economic relationship.

The reminder that God is the provider of all is also meant for the husband. It tells him that he should not be too stingily and try to get back every penny that he might have spent on the wife but rather settle on equitable, if not generous, terms. God, who provided him all that he spent on his wife, may provide him yet more out of His infinite abundance.

It is instructive to note a couple of differences between the passage considered above and verse 34 of the same Surah an-Nisa’ dealing with the case when it is the husband who is unhappy with the wife. In the latter case it is simply said: “If you (i.e. husbands) part” whereas in the above passage it is said “If a woman fears nushuz or i’radh on her husbands part.” The addition of i’radh meaning turning away or becoming indifferent in case of a husband and its omission in the case of a wife is significant. This is a recognition that in love and sex relationship man’s role is a more active one in the sense that he is the one who makes most of the first moves and therefore as a rule he alone can do i’radh: she can, as a rule, only refuse to respond (which if done willfully and too often would come under nushuz and would be dealt with as such).

Another difference between the two cases is that when the husband fears nushuz on the part of the wife he can, after due admonition and talking, separate the wife in bed and then lightly beat her while such measures are not suggested to the wife if she is the one who fears nushuz or i’drah from the husband. This is, of course, not because the Qur’an sees anything wrong in principle with the wife separating herself in bed from the ill-treating husband or even beating him. The reason rather is that the Qur’an recognizes the well-observed fact that as a rule women are physically weaker than men and therefore it would be difficult for her to implement such measures against the husband. Unlike the sentimental feminists, the Qur’an is wise enough and realistic enough to first admit that in general women are indeed physically weaker than men and then to realize that it would be totally unhelpful to ask a weaker partner to use forceful methods against a stronger one, especially if that stronger partner is already mistreating her.

But this does not mean that Islam leaves women at the mercy of their husbands. If despite being a Muslim a husband fails to respect the principles outlined in the Qur’an and instead of peacefully settling matters with the wife shows neither the inclination to treat her as a husband should treat a wife nor lets her go in a maruf (just and public) way, then it is the collective duty of the Muslim society to step in and, through a suitable legal system, enforce the law of God by imposing a settlement on the husband on terms judged equitable by an impartial court. It is regrettable that Muslim societies have not yet evolved such a suitable legal system to give women adequate protection against their stronger marriage partners should these stronger partners abandon love and tenderness and turn nasty.

Nor does anyone know what he will earn tomorrow’ – Making Predictions

Allah says: “Verily the knowledge of the Hour is with Allah (alone). It is He Who sends down rain, and He Who knows what is in the wombs. Nor does anyone know what he will earn tomorrow: Nor does any one know in what land he is to die. Verily with Allah is full knowledge and He is acquainted (with all things).” [Sûrah Luqmân: 34]
This is one of the verses telling us that knowledge of what is to unfold in the future is something that Allah has reserved to Himself. It is, in other words, part of the Unseen.

Allah also says: ” Say (O Muhammad): No one in the heavens and the earth knows the Unseen but Allah; and they know not when they will be raised (again).” [Sûrah al-Naml: 65]

This does not mean people cannot make informed judgments about what to expect from the data available at present. That has nothing to do with the Unseen. Such predictions and estimates may or may not come to pass.

This is the type of information that meteorologists work with when they give a weather forecast. When a meteorologist says that it is going to rain tomorrow, she relies on measurements of current weather conditions and images of cloud movements. With this information, they can say with reasonable certainty that a rainstorm is coming to a particular locality.

This kind of prediction is not part of the Unseen, since it is based on empirical data. The forecast is merely a deduction from what is being observed in the physical world. That which is grounded in observation is – by definition – not part of the Unseen, since the Unseen is that which cannot be ascertained through observation and experience.

Though the weather forecast for the week requires complex analysis and sensitive instruments, it si no different than the commonsense predictions and judgments that we make every day. If you drop an egg from the roof of a building, you can safely predict that it will crack and splatter on the pavement below. It has not happened yet, but present conditions and past experience give you enough information to make an accurate forecast.

The same can be said for weather forecasts, though they require satellite imagery and careful measurements. It is merely a difference in complexity. Knowledge of the Unseen does not come by way of sensitive instruments and calculations. The only access human being have to knowledge of the Unseen is prophecy, and that was reserved for the prophets (peace be upon them all).

Still, it behooves a meteorologist, doctor, or other specialist who speaks about the future on the basis of empirical evidence, to keep in mind that what she predicts does not necessarily have to come to pass. It does not matter how much evidence there is for the forecast or how certain it might seem. The matter still rests ultimately with Allah’s will. Whatever Allah wills to happen will come to pass, and whatever He wills not to happen will never be.

Allah says: ” And in the heaven is your providence and that which you are promised;.” [Sûrah al-Dhâriyât: 22]

Allah is telling us that our worldly and spiritual sustenance – the rains and everything else – is determined by His will.

And Allah knows best.

‘Keep them good company in this world’

Allah says, regarding our parents: “If they strive to make you join in worship with Me things of which you have no knowledge, obey them not; but keep them good company in this world, and follow the way of those who turn to Me. In the end, the return of you all is to Me, and I will tell you the truth (and meaning) of all that you did.” [Sûrah Luqmân: 15]
I was thinking about this verse, and realized just how eloquently and gently it exhorts us to honor our parents. The command is a gentle one – “keep them good company” – but what we must do to uphold this command is great indeed.

Keeping our parents company means having to spend a lot of time with them, and to do so over the long-term. This means staying with them through thick and thin. Also, long-term companionship can grow tedious, but the child must bear that tedium with honor and kindness. When we realize what we are being asked to do in this verse, we realize just how great a right our parents have over us. No one on Earth has a greater right to our good company.

What does our “good company” mean? It means to be kind and attentive. It means to consult them in all matters that concern them. It means to show impeccable manners in speaking with them, and to never let our speech betray any sense of weariness or irritation. It means to listen attentively to what they have to say – and if they are repeating the same thing for the umpteenth time, we must react to it with as much interest and delight as if we had never heard it before in our lives.

It means to be generous with our wealth, especially if our parents are in need. How many children these days are neglectful of this fact! How many more deceive themselves by saying “my parents are not in need” and therefore lose out on the blessings of spending on their parents.

How many self-centered children foist responsibility to take care of their parents onto the shoulders of their sisters and brothers. In many cases, each end every son and daughter think the same way, and as a consequence, they collectively leave their parents in the lurch!

Our attitude should be to make sure we get our share of the blessings in taking care of our parents, even if they are not in need of us. If we have brothers and sisters, we should compete with them in doing so. Allah says about our good deeds: “And it is in such things that those who compete should vie with one another.”

When our parents ask us to do something for them instead of asking our brothers and sisters, we should not feel resentment. We should feel happy about it. We should, after all, be trying to anticipate their needs before our siblings do.

Part of our “good company” is to gently encourage our parents to do good deeds and seek nearness to Allah. Believe it or not, some children do the opposite, especially went their own vested interests are at stake.

For instance, a child may be blessed with wealthy, pious parents. Those parents may wish to engage in a philanthropic project or set us pa public trust. The child tells his parents, feigning genuine concern: “Be careful. Think about this, my beloved parents, you do not want to put yourselves into financial difficulty.” Of course, that “well-meaning” child is only interested in making sure his inheritance is larger when his parents die!

Part of our “good company” is to accompany them when they travel – or better yet – to take them out on an excursion or vacation. Many of us are all too willing to go out with our friends, but how often do we think about taking our parents somewhere nice?

In brief, our “good company” means to make our parents as happy as possible. Indeed, this verse is giving us a weighty command.

“Indeed polytheism is a mighty oppression”

Allah says: “Behold! Luqmân said to his son exhorting him: ‘O my son! Join naught in worship with Allah. Indeed polytheism is a mighty oppression.” [Sûrah Luqmân : 13]
Polytheism and idolatryIn this verse, the sage Luqmân calls his son to avoid associating partners in worship with Allah, decrying it as a mighty form of oppression.

Polytheism takes various forms. They are as numerous as the possible ways of worship are numerous. Just as the ways of practicing polytheism are many, the objects of polytheistic worship are also quite varied.

The most obvious of these are idols and fetishes. Idols are the statues that are fashioned in the shape of a human being or other creature and worshipped besides Allah. Fetishes are whatever is worshipped other than Allah, whatever form it takes.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “O my Lord do not let my grave be worshipped as a fetish.” [ Musnad Ahmad and al-Muwatta’ ]

The term fetish ( wathan in Arabic) has a more general meaning than the term idol ( sanam ).

They are worshipped in many ways. Prostration to them is a form of worship, offering sacrifices to them is another, and invoking a vow in their name is another.

Worship also takes the form of devotions of the heart. Harboring for one of these idols or fetishes the feelings of love, reliance, fear, and hope that are due to Allah alone or turning to them in repentance is pure polytheism. It is idolatrous to focus such feelings and devotions upon anyone or anything else besides Allah alone.

Allah tells us about those who give over their love and devotion in worship to other than Allah. He says: “Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides Allah, as equal (with Allah): they love them as they should love Allah, but those who believe are overflowing in their love for Allah.” [ Sûrah al-Baqarah : 165]

With respect to fear and awe, Allah says: “It is only the Satan that suggests to you the fear of his votaries: be not afraid of them, but fear Me, if you have faith.” [ Sûrah Al-`Imrân : 175]

With respect to trust and reliance being worship, Allah says: “But in Allah put your trust if you have faith.” [ Sûrah al-Mâ’dah : 23]

For turning in repentance, Allah says: “Turn in repentance to Him, and fear Him: establish regular prayers, and be not among those who join gods with Allah.” [ Sûrah al-Rûm : 31]

In short, everything that is deemed to be a form of worship to Allah may not be offered to other than Allah. It is idolatry and polytheism to do so. Allah says: “One who joins other gods with Allah has strayed far, far away (from the right).” [ Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 116]

Idolatry is not confined to the worship of physical statues and fetishes. There are immaterial idols which people succumb to in their worship, like the whims and vain desires that go against Allah’s religion and His law. Whoever follows his vain desires instead of Allah’s religion has taken an idol of sorts as a god in worship besides Allah.

Allah says: “Have you seen such a one as takes as his god his own vain desire? Allah has, left him astray upon knowledge and sealed his hearing and his heart, and set a covering upon his sight. Who, then, will guide him after Allah? Will you not then receive admonition?” [ Sûrah al-Jâthiyah : 23]

Following one’s whims means the adoption of deviant principles, ideologies and philosophies. The pious predecessors used to refer to the people who followed their heretical whims and ideas as “the people of vain desires and innovations”.

Therefore, we must realize that the worship of idols is not confined to a special type of behavior or a particular form. There ways of engaging in idol worship are as numerous as all the ways a person can conceivably engage in worship.

In the beginning, humanity was united in pure monotheism. Allah says: “Mankind was one single nation. And Allah sent Messengers with glad tidings and warnings; And with them He sent the book in truth to judge between people in matters wherein they differed.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah : 213]

Humanity knew nothing of idolatry except after ten epochs had passed from the time of Adam to the time of Noah (peace be upon them both). This is the time when idolatry and the worship of other than Allah first took place. This is why Allah sent Noah; to call the people to return to the worship of Allah alone and abandon their idol worship.

When Noah came to his people with this message, they rejected it. Allah tells us: “And they said (to each other): ‘Abandon not your gods, abandon neither Wadd nor Suwâ`, neither Yaghûth nor Ya`ûq nor Nasr.” [ Sûrah Nûh : 23]

Ibn `Abbâs tells us that these names belonged to pious people who had belonged to Noah’s nation aforetime. When those pious people died, Satan inspired the people to erect statues in the places where they used to sit and confer upon those statues the names of those people. This they did. At that time, however, the statues were not worshipped.

However, after that generation had passed away and knowledge was lost, those statues were taken as objects of worship.

After that, the idols of Noah’s people became the idols of the Arab tribes. [ Sahîh al-Bukhârî (4920)]

This state of affairs continued until Allah sent His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who demolished them.

All nations had a Prophet to call them to the worship of Allah alone to and leave whatever else of idols and fetishes they had been worshipping. Allah says: And there has never been a people who have not had a warner live among them.” [ Sûrah Fâtir : 24]

The oppression that is polytheism

The negative affect of polytheism on a person’s mental and emotional state are numerous. Some of these have been mentioned in Allah’s book. We will briefly mention a few of these by way of example:

1. Lack of security, contentment and inner peace. Allah says, conveying to us the words of Abraham (peace be upon him) to his people: “How should I fear (the beings) you associate with Allah, when you fear not to give partners to Allah without any authority having been given to you? Which of (us) two parties has more right to security, if you possess knowledge? It is those who believe and mix not their beliefs with oppression. It is these who have security, for they are rightly guided.” [ Sûrah al-An`âm : 81-82]

The oppression mentioned in this verse refers to polytheism.

2. Intellectual and moral decline. This comes from people worshipping others like themselves who possess neither the ability to help or harm them. Even worse, they worship inanimate objects that neither hear nor see.

Allah says: “ They have taken as lords beside Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One Allah. ; yet they were commanded to worship but One God: there is no God but He, glory be to Him above the partners they ascribe to Him.” [ Sûrah al-Tawbah : 31]

Allah says: “Why worship that which neither hears nor sees and can profit you nothing?” [ Sûrah Maryam : 42]

He says: “If you invoke them, they will not listen to your call, and if they were to listen, they cannot answer your (prayer). On the day of Judgment they will reject your ‘partnership’. None can inform you like Him Who is All-Aware. ” [ Sûrah Fâtir : 14]

He says: “But the supplication of those without faith is nothing but vain error.” [ Sûrah Ghâfir : 50]

3. The pursuit of uncertainties and lies. Allah says: “Behold, verily to Allah belong all creatures in the heavens and on Earth. Those who follow aught instead of Allah do not follow His partners. They follow nothing but conjecture and they do noting but lie.” [ Sûrah Yûnus : 66]

4. Inconsistency in behavior, thought, and worship. Allah says: “And most of them do not believe in Allah without associating (others as partners) with Him.” [ Sûrah Yûsuf : 106]

5. Confusion and the inability to distinguish between what is beneficial and what is harmful. Allah says: “Say: ‘Do you then take (for worship) protectors other than Him, such as have no power either for good or for harm to themselves? Say: ‘Are the blind equal with those who see? Or the depths of darkness equal with light?’ Or do they assign to Allah partners who have created (anything) as He has created, so that the creation seemed to them similar? Say: ‘Allah is the Creator of all things: He is the One, the Supreme and Overpowering’.” [ Sûrah al-Ra`d : 16]

6. Crass opportunism and a tendency to take advantage of others. This is the attitude that people who worship gods beside Allah exhibit in their relationship with Allah. Allah says: “Yet, when He removes the distress from you, behold, some of you turn to other gods to join with their Lord” [ Sûrah al-Nahl : 54]

He says: “Now, if they embark on a boat, they call on Allah, making their devotion sincerely (and exclusively) to him, but when He has delivered them safely to (dry) land, behold, they give a share (of their worship to others)” [ Sûrah al-`Ankabût: 65]

He also says: “When trouble touches men, they cry to their Lord turning back to Him, in repentance: but when He gives them a taste of mercy from Himself, behold, some of them pay part-worship to other gods besides their Lord” [ Sûrah al-Rûm : 33]

They worship Allah sincerely when they face hardship and after Allah gives them relief from their hardship, they turn again to worshipping other gods beside Allah.

7. Idolatry and other forms of polytheism give Satan a way to have power over the polytheist. Consequently, many of the polytheist’s behaviors and attitudes are derived from Satan’s whispers and suggestions.

Allah says: “ So when you recite the Quran, seek refuge with Allah from Satan the rejected one. No authority has he over those who believe and put their trust in their Lord. His authority is over those only, who take him as patron and who join partners with Allah. ” [Sûrah al-Nahl : 98-100]

Allah says: “Likewise did We make for every Messenger an enemy, satans among men and Jinns, inspiring each other with flowery discourse by way of deception.” [ Sûrah al-An`âm : 112]

8. A narrow, materialistic worldview. The more blessings he experiences, the more reckless and arrogant the polytheist gets and the more heedless he becomes of his Lord. He becomes more and more steeped in the worship of his other gods.

Allah describes such a person in the Qur’ân, saying: “(Abundant) was the produce this man had. He said to his companion, in the course of a mutual argument: ‘I have greater wealth than you, and am mightier in followers. ‘ He went into his garden while he oppressed himself. He said: ‘I hold that none of this will ever perish, nor do I deem that the Hour (of Judgment) will (ever) come. Even if I am brought back to my Lord, I shall surely find (there) something better in exchange.” [ Sûrah al-Kahf : 34-36]

Such people are greedy for the worldly life. Allah says: “You will indeed find them, of all people, most greedy for life, even more than the idolaters: each one of them wishes he could be given a life of a thousand years: but the grant of such life will not save him from (due) chastisement for Allah sees well all that they do.” [ Sûrah al-Baqarah : 96]

9. Indecisiveness, perplexity, and incoherence of thought. A polytheist finds his life always beset with uncertainty on account of the numerous focuses of worship that he has. Allah says: “Allah puts forth a parable a man belonging to many partners at variance with each other, and a man belonging entirely to one master: are those two equal in comparison? Praise be to Allah, but most of them have no knowledge” [ Sûrah al-Zumar : 29]

10. Depression, frustration, and despair of Allah’s mercy. Many idolaters commit suicide. Allah says: “Those whom Allah wills to guide, He opens their breast to Islam; those whom He wills to leave straying, He makes their breast close and constricted, as if they have to climb up to the skies. Thus does Allah lay abomination on those who refuse to believe.” [ Sûrah al-An`âm : 125]

Allah says: “And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord but such as go astray?” [ Sûrah al-Hijr : 56]

These are but a few of the evil affects of polytheism on the people who engage in it. There are many more. Far worse than all of these, however, are the consequences that idolatry has on a person in the Hereafter. A person who dies on polytheism will never be forgiven. He will be eternally consigned to Hell.

Every benefit and advantage that a person realizes by worshipping Allah alone is matched by an equal portion of mischief and suffering for the polytheist.

“…but (he is) the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets…”

Allah says: “But (he is) the Messenger of Allah and the seal of the Prophets and Allah has full knowledge of all things.” [Sûrah al-Ahzâb: 40]
It is one of the indisputable tenets of Islam that Muhammad (peace be upon him)is the last of Allah’s Messengers and prophets. Allah says: “But (he is) the Messenger of Allah and the seal of the Prophets and Allah has full knowledge of all things” [Sûrah al-Ahzâb: 40].

The meaning of the “seal of the prophets” is that prophecy has been completed and concluded, and it will not exist any more until the Day of Judgment.

The verse says that there is no prophet after Muhammad (peace be upon him). it follows that there will be no messenger after him also, since being a Messenger is more exclusive and particular than being a prophet. It is known that every Messenger is a prophet but not every prophet is a Messenger. Al-Qâdî `Iyâd, said: “This is what most scholars maintain.” [al-Shifâ’ (1/347)]

There is considerable evidence that messengership is more particular than prophethood. Allah says to Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Therefore patiently persevere as did (all) messengers of firm resolution.” [Sûrah al-Ahqâf: 35]

Here, Allah has distinguished these messengers of firm resolution and ordered His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to follow their guidance. These messengers are, according to the strongest opinion, Nûh, Ibrâhîm, Mûsa, `Isa and Muahmmad (peace be upon them all). The description of them as messengers is more particular and indicates a higher level of perfection.

Abû Dharr asked Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about the number of prophets. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “They were one hundred and twenty four thousand prophets, out of whom were three hundred and fifteen messengers.” [Musnad Ahmad]

There is considerable evidence in the Sunnah indicating that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the final prophet.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The example of me with respect to the prophets before me is like that of a man who built a house and made if complete save one brick. People were looking at how nice the building was but were wondering about that brick. I am that brick and I am the last of the prophets.”

In a similar hadîth related in Târîkh Dimashq it reads: “I am the brick by which it is completed. The building is complete and the line of messengers has come to an end.” [refer to Al-Suyûtî, al-Jâmi` al-Kabîr]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I am Muhammad, I am Ahmad. I am al-Mâhî; by me Allah eliminates disbelief. I am al-Hâshir; upon my foot people will gather in the day of Judgment. And I am al-`Aqîb; there is no prophet after me.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There will be thirty liars among my people, each one claiming to be a prophet while I am the last prophet and there is no prophet after me.” [Sahîh Muslim]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I had been given preference over the other prophets by six tings: I was given the perfect form of speech. I have been assisted by dread being instilled in my enemies. Spoils of war were made legal for me. All the Earth was made a prayer place and a purifying place for me. I was sent to all humanity. And prophecy was sealed by me.” [Sahîh Muslim]

Ibn Kathîr said: “Allah tells us in His book what we are also told by the Prophet (peace be upon him) in his Sunnah – that there are no more prophets to be sent.”

Therefore, people must know that anyone who today claims prophecy is misguided and a preacher of falsehood, regardless of what magic or trickery that person may use to support the claim.

Al-Qâdî `Iyâd said:

We declare it as unbelief for anyone to believe that there is another prophet after our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), or who declares himself to be a prophet, or who claims that prophecy can be attained or reached by purifying the heart as has been alleged by some philosophers and extreme Sufis.

It is also unbelief for someone to claim that he receives revelation, even if he does not claim prophecy. All of these categories of people are speakers of falsehood who disbelieve in what was revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him), because Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) clearly stated that he was the last prophet.

And Allah knows best.

“An excellent pattern of conduct”

Allah says: “You have indeed in Allah’s Messenger an excellent pattern of conduct for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and who engages much in the praise of Allah.” [Surah al-Ahzâb: 21]
The Importance of Emulating the Prophet

As this verse makes perfectly clear, the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is the one that we as Muslims must emulate. The principle of emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him) is a very important one in Islam, and the way in which the Muslims have put this principle into practice since the time of the Companions is a topic worthy of the most serious research, study and reflection. This is because sometimes people go to excesses whereby the very purpose behind emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him) is lost. Others take a lackadaisical attitude about it, to the point of showing disrespect for the one who brought Allah’s Message to us. Of course, both of these tendencies only developed after the era of the Companions.

We also find that, ever since the codification of Islamic Law, there developed a narrow understanding of what it means to emulate the Prophet (peace be upon him) restricted entirely to legal matters. Such an outlook focuses heavily on acts of worship and religious rites and, in other matters, rarely ever extends beyond considerations of what is lawful and what is prohibited.

It escapes me why, whenever Muslims think about following their Prophet’s example, they immediately start thinking along juristic terms. This is in spite of the fact that the Qur’ân comes with numerous verses calling towards emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the most general of terms.

Besides the verse mentioned above, Allah says: “And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain from it.” [Sûrah al-Hashr: 7]

Allah says: “Let those beware who go against his order lest a trial afflict them or there befall them a painful chastisement.” [Sûrah al-Nûr: 63]

He says: “Now has come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that you should fall into distress: ardently anxious is he over you. To the Believers is he most kind and merciful.” [Sûrah al-Tawbah: 128]

He also says: “It is He who has sent amongst the unlettered a messenger from among themselves, to rehearse to them His signs, to sanctify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom – although they had been, before, in manifest error.” [Sûrah al-Jumu`ah: 2]

It is an accepted fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) came with Islam, and Islam is more than a body of legislation, though the Law is a central part of it. Islam is guidance for the human being in every aspect of his existence.

Therefore, it is imperative that we establish and develop our knowledge of how to emulate the Prophet (peace be upon him) as a field of study in its own right. We need to study and investigate the various spheres of activity in which the emulation of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is to be carried out as well as how we are to do so. In this way, the Prophet’s example will truly become the ideal model for every Muslim in every aspect of his or her life. It should encompass the Muslim’s very outlook on life and on Creation. It should shape the Muslim’s activities and direct his methods in every role that the Muslim assumes – whether it be the role of leader, parent, teacher, Islamic worker, or something else.

The Role of the Companions in Developing our Concept of Emulation

No doubt, in order to base our concept of emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him) on a firm foundation, we will have to live alongside the Companions. We will have to put ourselves in their place while they endeavored to understand the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him) living in their midst, as well as while they endeavored to apply that example to their lives after his death.

The understanding of the Companions is of central importance to our formulating a proper methodological framework. We must consider that the Companions were the ones who actually witnessed the revelation while it was being revealed. They lived with the Prophet (peace be upon him) who was there to correct their behavior and their misunderstandings, and to direct their vision to proper guidance and to how to follow him. They were able to realize the distinction of being the best – by the testimony of Allah and His messenger – in their understanding of the Message, in their deeds, in their obedience, and in their emulation of the Prophet’s example.

At the same time, we see that each of the Companions still retained his unique personality and identity. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not make them all into carbon copies of himself. Nor did the Companions aspire to being copies of him, in spite of how highly they held him in esteem and how much they were willing to sacrifice for his sake. This was also in spite of the fact that their obedience to the Prophet (peace be upon him) was absolute, and that he unquestionably remade their personalities. As one of the Companions described it: “Allah’s Messenger used to empty out our constituents and then fill us up again.”

The Companions provide us collectively with a comprehensive model of emulation of the Prophet’s example. Each Companion provides an example of emulation tied to his or her own unique character. Through direct contact with the Prophet (peace be upon him), they each provide an informed practical example. Taken together, we get a very complete picture of the manner of emulation adopted by the Companions, each through his personal experiencing contributing a brick to the edifice of our understanding,

If we focus on any single Companion, we find that he would present to us a facet of the general manner of emulation that we see when we observe the Companions as an entire generation.

We wish, in the second part of this article, to focus on `Umar b. al-Khattâb and learn from his example how the Companions understood the concept of emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Allah says: “You have indeed in Allah’s Messenger an excellent pattern of conduct for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and who engages much in the praise of Allah.” [Surah al-Ahzâb: 21]

We have chosen of `Umar b. al-Khattâb to be our example of how the Companions emulated the Prophet (peace be upon him), because `Umar had special qualities that make him of particular interest to us. He was one of the closest of people to the Prophet (peace be upon him). In fact, Abû Bakr was the only person who was closer to the Prophet than `Umar. Also, from among the Companions, `Umar played the greatest role in spreading the message of Islam and in developing the Islamic state.

During the Prophet’s lifetime, `Umar had the opportunity to issue legal verdicts. During Abû Bakr’s time as Caliph, he carried out the role of a minister of state. Thereafter, he was appointed Caliph and assumed that responsibility for more than a decade. During that time, he instituted the state records, established the national treasury, and brought about numerous other developments. During his era, the frontiers of the Muslim world expanded considerably.

When we study the story of `Umar’s life from its biographical sources and then look at his narrations from the Prophet (peace be upon him), we see a stark contrast. On the one hand, `Umar spent a considerable amount of time in the Prophet’s company. He had been ever at his side. However, when we consider the number of hadîth that he narrated from the Prophet (peace be upon him), we find them to be surprisingly few.

We would be wrong to draw from this the conclusion this that `Umar was unconcerned about following the Prophet (peace be upon him). If that were the case, why did the Prophet (peace be upon him) say: “Allah has placed the truth upon `Umar’s tongue and in his heart. He speaks the truth.”?

If emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him) had meant simply relating his words without understanding, then `Umar would surely have been one of the Companions to have narrated the most hadîth.

If emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him) had meant blindly imitating his actions, then there would not have been the expansion in the domain of juristic reasoning that took place after the Prophet’s death. We would never have seen the state records and all of the other measures that `Umar instituted for the public welfare that did not exist in the Prophet’s day.

If emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him) had meant following the Prophet’s example without seeking to understand and analyze what he did, then `Umar would never have discussed and debated matters with the Prophet (peace be upon him) the way that he did on many occasions. He did so about the prisoners of war after the Battle of Badr, about the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, and about the funeral prayer of `Abd Allah b. Ubayy b. Salûl. He was also more than willing to volunteer his opinion when he saw the need to do so.

If emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him) had been something superficial, `Umar never would have cut the trees of Hudaybiyah or broken the stones of Mina, or placed a moratorium on the distribution of Zakâh funds for the purpose of reconciling people’s hearts to Islam.

At the same time, if emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him) had meant investigating, analyzing, and second-guessing everything that the Prophet (peace be upon him) ever said or did, then `Umar would never have made his famous statement before kissing the black Stone: “I know that you are nothing but a stone. You cannot hurt or help anyone. And had I not seen the Prophet (peace be upon him) kissing you, I would never kiss you.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) attested to `Umar’s right-guidance when he said: “Indeed, the truth expresses itself on his tongue.”

Likewise, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Abide by my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided Caliphs who shall come after me.” The Pious Predecessors all agreed that the Rightly Guided Caliphs were Abû Bakr, `Umar, `Uthmân, and `Alî.

He also said: “Of those who come after me, follow the example of Abû Bakr and `Umar.”

`Umar enjoyed the acceptance of all the Companions. The Prophet (peace be upon him) bore witness to his good character and conduct on more than one occasion. From this we know that `Umar was clearly one of the closest people to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and to the Prophet’s example, even if he narrated relatively few hadîth and even though he instituted many new developments that had been unknown to the Muslims before his tenure as Caliph.

From these facts, we can surmise that `Umar understood the emulation of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to be a matter of following his way, his approach, his methodology – to emulate how the Prophet himself had related to the revelation given to him by his Lord and the way that he conveyed the Message to humanity. For indeed, this is how the Prophet (peace be upon him) set the best example of conduct, an example through which the guidance of the Qur’ân was communicated to the rest of humanity.

In spite of the fact that all of the Companions shared in the principle of emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him), each had a unique way of doing so that accorded with his personality and spirit. So even if `Abd Allah b. `Umar endeavored to walk down the paths that the Prophet (peace be upon him) walked, following his very footsteps and seeking shade under the very same trees – we find that his father, `Umar b. al-Khattâb, took another approach to emulation, and approach that was defined by certain clear principles and that presents us with a general concept of emulation and a coherent methodology.

`Umar’s Concept of Emulation

The methodology of `Umar in emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him) was governed by the following principles:

1. `Umar considered the ideal of emulation to be embodied in preserving Allah’s Book and in focusing one’s efforts upon it. He understood this from the prophet’s initial prohibition of writing down the Sunnah when the Qur’ân was being revealed. He understood that the preservation of the Sunnah was implicit in the preservation of the Qur’ân and in living according to its dictates.

2. `Umar would accept without question in matters which had no rational explanation behind them, like his kissing the Black Stone because he saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) doing so, even though he did not understand it. However, since he saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) doing so, he did likewise, knowing that whatever the Prophet (peace be upon him) did was the truth. He did not add anything of his own when it came to such matters. Indeed, he prohibited others from going beyond what the Prophet (peace be upon him) did or instructed.

3. `Umar saw the emulation of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in a broad, social context – a way that people dealt with one another and what they put into practice as a community. This can be clearly seen in studying `Umar’s life, in how he was averse to accepting that which was strange and how he pt great weight on the general transmission of practices as applied by the people and as they were relevant to the people as a community. This approach would later become embodied in Mâlik’s juristic principle that the practice of the people of Madinah – their collective practice – is to be taken as a source of Islamic Law.

We see how, when Abû Mûsâ al-Ash`arî informed `Umar of a hadîth that he had not been familiar with, `Umar insisted that he produce others to testify to what he said.

4. `Umar’s emulation of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and imitation of his ways made him extremely strict when it came to the narration of hadîth. He was extremely careful not to allow anything to be falsely attributed to the Prophet (peace be upon him). I believe this was due to his astute awareness of the circumstances, for he feared that people would busy themselves with narrating hadîth and become less careful about verifying what was being said. He also feared that people might become neglectful of the Qur’ân from which the Sunnah derives its authority.

His strictness with respect to narrating hadîth did not indicate a lack of concern for the Sunnah. Quite the contrary, he was planting the first seeds of hadîth criticism by emphasizing the need for scientific scrutiny in the verification of the texts and of the character of those who narrate them. These measures that `Umar applied were what later developed into the sciences of hadîth by way of which the Sunnah was preserved and protected from corruption.

`Umar fully appreciated the need to preserve and safeguard the Prophet’s example in its pristine purity for future generations, free from being mixed up with the opinions of the narrators.

5. `Umar had witnessed many different things during his years with the Prophet (peace be upon him). He had seen him in war and peace. He had seen the him carry out various roles, that of governor, judge, preacher, jurist, father, husband, and legislator. From all of this, `Umar acquired a clear understanding of how to emulate the Prophet (peace be upon him) and was able to develop a methodology that recognized various levels of emulation, a methodology that was able to distinguish between obligatory matters and those that are customs subject to being abandoned or modified depending on the time and circumstances.

`Umar possessed a spirit of emulation that afforded him with an understanding of the spirit of Islamic Law – an understanding of its broad objectives as well as its particulars. This can be seen in his practical application of the Qur’ân and Sunnah both during the Prophet’s lifetime and after his death – in the discussions that he had with the Prophet (peace be upon him) during his lifetime and in the juristic decisions that he later made on his own. These include his nominating Abû Bakr for the office of Caliph after the Prophet’s death, his policy on not using Zakâh funds to reconcile people’s hearts to Islam, his imposing a produce levy on captured lands, his expansion of the Sacred Mosque, his appointing a chamberlain, and numerous other policies that he enacted.

Though it sometimes appeared that he acted contrary to the sacred texts in certain matters, a careful study of his exercise of juristic discretion shows that he had been correct in his decisions and acted in accordance with the dictates of the sacred texts, if not always a superficial understanding of their meanings. He acted upon the spirit of the texts where the texts required it and upon the face value of the texts where the texts required it.


In conclusion, we would like to reiterate that a complete picture of how to emulate the Prophet (peace be upon him) needs to be taken by looking at the practice of all of the Companions. No one from among the Companions ever claimed to have comprised within himself every aspect of the Prophet’s example, so that the understanding of others could be dispensed with. If that were the case, then he would have been no different than the Prophet (peace be upon him). Instead, each Companion expressed his emulation of the Prophet (peace be upon him) through the filter of his own, unique personality.

The very existence of the Companions shows how important it is to have a collective, social application of emulation that shows us the way that the Prophet (peace be upon him) dealt with the revelation and applied it to the real situations that the people faced. Through their collective example, we can see how the Prophet (peace be upon him) was able to build up the individual believer, the Muslim community, and the nation according to the teachings of the Qur’an.

Some Companions conveyed to us the Sunnah by relating numerous hadîth. Others, by contrast, conveyed to us the Prophet’s example through their visible works, by applying it to all the circumstances that they faced.

If we understand the emulation of the Prophet (peace be upon him) within the narrow confines of Islamic Law, then we are restricting the Prophet’s mission to matters of the lawful and the prohibited. However, this is only one of the levels on which our emulation of the Prophet (peace be upon him) must be carried out. The Prophet’s life has many other dimensions to it that we must pay attention to. He was the Seal of the Prophets and the Message that he came with is the final Message for all humanity.

I do not suspect that any of the Companions failed to realize this broad understanding of what it means to emulate the Prophet (peace be upon him).

And Allah knows best.


%d bloggers like this: