Truthfulness distinguishes between Islam and unbelief

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Could you describe the care the companions showed in relating the traditions?

Whether of the Companions or the succeeding generations, those who constituted the first two or three links in the chains of the Traditions, were quite meticulous in the narration or transmission of ahadith. As will be elaborated below, they showed the utmost care and exactness in distinguishing the sound from the fabricated ones and, after committing to memory word for word, transmitted the sound ones to the following generations. The following examples show the motives for this exactness:

The warning of the Prophet, upon be peace and blessings

Islam is based on truthfulness which distinguishes between Islam and unbelief. A Muslim refrains from lying to the utmost degree. The first generations of Islam, the Companions and their successors, proved their utmost attachment to Islam by the world-admired sacrifices they made in order to spread Islam. Also, they feared God very much and lived austerely, not indulging in the comforts of life. Many great scholars and saints appeared among them and the examples they set have been followed by succeeding generations up to the present day.

Along with the emphasis Islam puts on truthfulness, God’s Messenger severely warned people not to lie against him: Whoever lies against me, should prepare his abode in the Fire.54 He also warned: Whoever relates from me falsely is a liar.55

Is it at all conceivable then, in the face of such severe warnings, that the Companions, who sacrificed their lives for the cause of Islam, which is based on truthfulness, should have lied against the Messenger?

54. Bukhari, “‘Ilm,” 38; Muslim, “Zuhd,” 72; Abu Dawud, “‘Ilm,” 4; Tirmidhi, “Fitan,” 70.

55. Muslim, “Muqaddima,” 1.

The self-control of the Companions in narrating the Traditions

Because of the important place the Tradition has in Islam and due to the warnings of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, the Companions were very careful in narrating Traditions. They feared lest they should fail to narrate them word for word and thereby cause misunderstandings. For example, the fourth Caliph ‘Ali, who was the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet and who was always with him, used to say: ‘I fear to narrate a Tradition from God’s Messenger so much that I would rather fall from heaven than speak a lie on his behalf.’56

‘Abdullah ibn al-Mas‘ud was among the foremost in nearness to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. He was also one of the most knowledgeable among the Companions. When he was asked to report from God’s Messenger, he began with ‘The Messenger of God said’; then he stopped, bowed his head, took in a deep breath, unbuttoned his collar and his eyes filled with tears. After the narration, he added: ‘The Messenger of God said this, or something like this, or something more or less like this.’57

Zubayr ibn ‘Awwam was one of the ten Companions who were assured of entry to Paradise. He narrated only a few Traditions from God’s Messenger. When his son asked him why he did not narrate Traditions from the Messenger, Zubayr replied: ‘I feared very much lest I should utter a word contrary to what God’s Messenger really said. For he declared: Whoever lies against me intentionally, should prepare his abode in the Fire.’58

Anas ibn Malik, who served God’s Messenger for ten years, said: ‘Were it not for fear of making a mistake, I would make many more narrations from God’s Messenger.’59

‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Layla met 500 Companions. When he visited a place, people would say: ‘The man who met 500 Companions has come to our town.’ He had great influence on Abu Hanifa and Imam Abu Yusuf. He reports: ‘I was personally familiar with 120 Companions. It sometimes happened that all of them were in the same mosque. When they were asked about something, each waited for the other to answer, and if they were to narrate a Tradition, no one would dare to. At last, one of them made the narration trusting in God and added: ‘The Messenger said this, or something like this, or something more or less like this.’60

Zayd ibn Arqam was among the first to convert to Islam. In the early days of his mission, God’s Messenger came together with the Muslims secretly in his house. He was the superintendent of the Public Treasury during the caliphates of ‘Umar and ‘Uthman. When he witnessed ‘Uthman give out from the treasury to his relatives, he went to him and said: ‘O Commander of the Faithful! People will feel suspicious of you, and they will no longer trust me. Please permit me to resign.’ When ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Layla asked this honest man to narrate a Tradition, he answered: ‘My son! I have be-come old and forgetful. Narration from God’s Messenger is something very hard to do.’61

There is a matter in the science of Tradition, namely whether it s absolutely necessary to narrate a Tradition word for word. Although literal narration is better and always preferable, narration of mean-ing is permissible on condition that the narrator is expert in the language, and the word used to give the meaning is well-fitted to the context, and the original has been completely forgotten. However, the Companions were very careful in narrating Traditions literally despite this permission. For example, one day ‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr narrated: The like of a hypocrite is like sheep left between ‘rabidayn’ (two flocks). ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, who was present, objected: ‘He did not say so. I heard God’s Messenger say: The like of a hypocrite is like a sheep between ‘ghanamayn’ (two flocks).62 The meaning is the same; the difference is only between the words rabidayn and ghanamayn.

The same care the Companions showed in literal narration was also shown by the scholars or narrators belonging to the generation following the Companions. For instance, in the presence of Sufyan ibn ‘Uyayna someone narrated: ‘God’s Messenger forbade leaving to fermentation (an yuntabadha) the juice (of grapes, dates and the like) in the bowls made of pumpkin and lined with pitch’. Sufyan ibn ‘Uyayna objected and said: ‘I heard Zuhri narrate it: “God’s Messenger forbade leaving to fermentation (an yunbadha) the juice (of grapes and dates and the like) in the bowls made of pumpkin and lined with pitch.’63 Though of exactly the same meaning, the difference is that as conjugation.

Bara ibn ‘Adhib related: ‘God’s Messenger advised me: Do ritual ablution before going to bed. Then lie on your right side and say this prayer: ‘O God, I have submitted myself to You and I have committed my affair to You; I have sheltered in You, in fear of You and in quest of You. There is no shelter from you except in You. I believed in Your Book You sent down and Your Prophet You raised.’ In order to memorize the prayer immediately, I repeated to the Messenger and said at the end of it: “and Your Messenger You raised”. Our master corrected me, saying: and Your Prophet You raised.’64

A man has dreams in sleep, and true dreams constitute a forty-sixth of Prophethood, since God’s Messenger had true dreams in the first six months’ period of his Prophethood, which lasted twenty-three years. Since dreams are therefore related to Prophethood, the Messenger corrected Bara ibn ‘Adhib. This care was shown by almost all of the Companions, who studied the Traditions they heard from God’s Messenger and discussed them, their meaning and connotations. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, commanded them: Commit Traditions to memory and study them. Some of them are associated with some others. Therefore, come together and discuss them.65

56. Bukhari, “Istitaba,” 6; Abu Dawud, “Sunna,” 28.

57. I. Ma’ja, “Muqaddima,” 3.

58. Bukhari, “‘Ilm,” 38; Muslim, “Zuhd,” 72.

59. Darimi, “Muqaddima,” 25.

60. Dhahabi, Siyaru A’lam al-Nubala’, 4.263.

61. I. Ma’ja, “Muqaddima,” 3.

62. Abu Dawud al-Tayalisi, Musnad, 248.

63. Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Kifaya fi ‘Ilm al-Riwaya, 178.

64. Bukhari, “Da‘awat,” 6.

65. Darimi, “Muqaddima,” 51.

 

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