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Al-Mudawwanah Al-Jāmi’ah: The History and Methodology of the Hadith Encyclopedia

Umer Ansari

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By Shaykh Al-Islam Mufti Taqi ‘Uthmani

Translator’s Foreword:

The following is the first formal introduction to Al-Mudawwanah Al-Jāmi’ah: The Hadith Encyclopedia in the English language.

It has been formulated based on the Arabic Muqaddimah penned by Shaykh Mufti Taqī ‘Uthmānī at the beginning of Al-Mudawwanah Al-Jāmi’ah, the Urdu introduction by our esteemed Shaykh that was published in Al-Balagh Urdu Monthly (Nov 2017), and his speech given at “Taqrīb-i Shukr” ceremony (Dec 5, 2017) at Dār al-Ulūm Karachi, the transcription of which has also been published in Al-Balagh Urdu Monthly (Jan 2018).

This translation aims to provide, in the English language, a comprehensive introduction of this historical work with the latest information available at the time.


In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful and the Ever Merciful

All praises are due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, and peace and blessings be upon Allah’s noble messenger, his household, and all of his noble companions.

Since 2002, Dār al-‘Ulūm in Karachi has undertaken an important project in the field of hadith compilation and, by Allah’s mercy and blessings, we have reached an important milestone. The first volume of the hadith encyclopedia has been published under the title Al-Mudawwanah Al-Jāmi’ah lil-ahadith al-Marwīyah ‘an an-Nabī al-Karīm allá Allāh ‘alayhi wassallam.

By the grace of Allah, this project has been in progress without any publicity. Since the first volume is now published, however, the time is ripe on this joyous occasion that a concise introduction be presented for all the people of knowledge.

The Preservation of Hadith

For indeed, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has chosen the nation of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to preserve the details of His beloved messenger’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) noble life. This is so because the noble messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was sent with divine guidance for all of humanity until the Day of Judgment. Therefore, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has taken it upon Himself to protect the Qur’an. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

“We, Ourselves, have sent down the Dhikr (the Qur’an), and We are there to protect it.” [Al-ijr, 15:9][1]

 

Furthermore, the protection of the Qur’an entails the preservation of the sunnah of Allah’s messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) because Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) had sent him to teach and explain the Book of Allah. He says:

 

 

“We sent down the Reminder (The Qur’an) to you, so that you explain to the people what has been revealed for them, and so that they may ponder.” [an-Nal, 16:44]

 

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

 

Allah has surely conferred favor on the believers when He raised in their midst a messenger from among themselves  who recites to them His verses and makes them pure and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, while earlier, they were in open error.” [Āl-i-Imrān, 3:164]

 

Therefore, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) chose some among His servants to preserve the sunnah of His Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). They dedicated their lives to preserving the sunnah by memorizing, writing, teaching, explaining, and propagating it. They spared no effort in preserving the text and the chains of narrators of ahadith, in scrutinizing the narrators to separate the reliable narrators from the unreliable, in the writing and compiling of ahadith, in explaining and extrapolating from them, and in expanding this science while preserving it, the likes of which is unprecedented in human history.

It is no secret from the people of knowledge that the way Muslims have preserved hadith of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is unparalleled and incomparable with any other nation or religion. Innumerable compilations of hadith have been written in different styles, and each one of them possesses many benefits.

When we examine the history of the hadith sciences, we find works that attempted at compiling numerous hadith. ‘Allāmah Ibn al-Athīr al-Jazarī compiled the six books of Al-Sihah Al-Sitta (also known as Al-Kutub Al-Sitta)[2] into Jāmi’ al-Usūl, however, it included Al-Muwaṭṭaʾ of Imam Mālik instead of Sunan Ibn Mājah. Then ‘Allāmah Haythami compiled his Majmau’ al-Zawāid in which he compiled the ahadith of Al-Sihāh Al-Sitta, along with Musnad Amad, Al-Mu’jam Al-abarānī, and Musnad Abu Ya’lā. This was followed by Jam’ul Fawāid in which Jāmi’ al-Usūl and Majmau’ al-Zawāid were compiled together, in addition to the narrations exclusively found in Sunan Ibn Mājah and Sunan ad-Dārimi.

Later, many other compilations took place, for example Al-Jawāmi’ of ‘Allāmah al-Suyūṭī and Kanz al-‘Ummāl to name a few. However, in these compilations, ahadith were collected with their matn (text), while leaving out their isnād (chain of narrators)[3].

Thus, every generation has served the Prophetic traditions by facilitating the need to search ahadith from the hadith compilations, details of which are well-known to the people of knowledge. In the Information Age, there are numerous programs to search hadith, the importance of which cannot be denied. However, new ways of service to the Prophetic traditions continue to manifest.

Background

About fifteen years ago a friend of mine, who would like to remain anonymous, proposed that all the Prophetic traditions should be assigned a unique international number. The current method of citing hadith is either by making a reference to the page number of the reference work, or by mentioning the hadith number found in that collection. However, such references differ quite often due to the differences in the manuscripts and publications. Therefore, such a method is not the best tool to search and cite hadith. In addition, while doing takhrīj[4], narrations of some works are missed.

Without drawing a likeness to the Qur’an, just as each Qur’anic chapter and verse are numbered, and it is enough to cite the chapter and the verse number that doesn’t differ with different prints, the proposal suggested each hadith to be assigned a unique hadith number that can be used to cite as a reference comprising of all the details (pertaining to it) in a single place.

I personally liked this proposal, and it was obvious that it would require a thorough examination to compile a new hadith encyclopedia consisting of all the traditions that are attributed to the messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (i.e. Marfū’ ahadith)[5]. None of the compilers of hadith have claimed that they have only included hadith, after a close study of all the narrations, that are found in all of the hadith works in the world.

Along with its importance, the sheer volume of work required an insight of a scholarly body. For this reason, the gentleman who had presented this proposal wanted to host a meeting of scholars who were learned and experienced in dealing with the sciences of hadith and it’s cataloging.

The First Meeting

On the 5th and 7th of Ramaḍān, 1422 (A.H.) a meeting was held in Makkah al-Mukarramah that comprised of scholars who had expertise in hadith, especially in hadith compilation, arrangement, and preservation.

The most prominent amidst them was Shaykh Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami, who, among his other extensive contributions to the hadith sciences, was the first to computerize hadith. His work in the digitization of hadith had earned him the King Faisal International Award[6].

Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaraḍāwī, who currently resides in Qatar, was also invited because he is a world-renowned academic.

The Grand Mufti of Pakistan Shaykh Mufti Muḥammad Rafī’ ‘Uthmāni, the Principal of Dār al-‘Ulūm Karachi in Pakistan and the muḥaddith there was invited as well.

Also present was Shaykh Dr. Abdul Malik bin Bakr al-Qāḍi, a Riyadh based scholar and the author of Diwān as-Sunan wa al-Athār, who in 1422 A.H. had personally begun to collect all the available ahadith with their text and chain of narration. He had presented to me a sample from his work in the form of Kitāb al-Zakah, seeking my advice and recommendations. I had found that his work was missing the books of the Hanafi school, for example At-aāwī, Al-Muwaṭṭaʾ of Imam Muḥammad and Kitāb al-Athār of Imam Abu Yusuf. I had written to him in my response that how can his work be called “al-Jāmi’” if it did not include these works. He then responded to me that he would include them as well. At the time we had no thought towards such a project. However, now that we were meeting in Makkah, he was invited as well so that we could benefit from his experience.

Additionally, Shaykh Dr. Maḥmūd al-Taḥān, Dr. ‘Abdul Sattar Abu Ghuddah[7], Dr. Syed Muḥammad Syed Nūḥ, Shaykh Nizām Ya’qūbi, and I were present at the meeting.

With the blessings of the month of Ramaḍān and the Ḥaramain Sharīfain, everyone was receptive to the proposal, analyzed different aspects of it, and encouraged it. We discussed the different ways this could be achieved. The first meeting was concluded by forming a four-member committee to further brainstorm the methodology for the project and how it may be implemented. The four members of this committee were Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami, Muḥammad Taqī ‘Uthmānī, Shaykh Abdul Malik bin Bakr al-Qāḍi, and Shaykh Abdul Sattar Abu Ghuddah.

The Second Meeting

This committee convened its meeting on the 25th and 26th of Shawwāl, 1422 A.H. in Makkah al-Mukarramah, where the structure of this project was discussed.

Since Shaykh Abdul Malik bin Bakr al-Qāḍi had a head start, even though his work was missing some books, he presented his methodology in compiling hadith. Listening to his experience, it dawned upon the committee members that this project would require at least forty personnel. It was also suggested that this forty personnel should be divided into two equal groups, one based in Karachi under the supervision of Dār al-‘Ulūm Karachi and another group in Cairo under the supervision of Shaykh Abdul Malik bin Bakr al-Qāḍi.

The Suggestion of Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami

When the project’s finances were estimated, we were in shock. I spoke with Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami that with such estimated expenses, it did not seem possible to have forty people in two groups working on the project in two different cities, to which he agreed.

I also told him that if we were to undertake this project it would be in the footsteps of our elders in simplicity. We would do however little we can and we will leave it to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to make it reach its completion.

Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami agreed, and he proposed that this project should be entrusted to Dār al-‘Ulūm Karachi under my humble supervision, it should not be publicized, and while relying and trusting upon Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), the work should begin.

Initial Investment

In order to initiate this project, some investment was nevertheless needed. An individual from Dubai approached us and offered to single-handedly sponsor all the finances of this project. I did not think it wise to rely on an individual for the finances of this project; rather I felt that we must solely rely upon Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Therefore, it was made clear to him that he may assist out of his own will for as long as he wishes, while we trust in Allah to arrange the needed finances.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) showed us that the individual who wanted to single-handedly sponsor the entire project backed out within four months of his claim. We believed that this project was purely for the sake of Allah, because it was in service of the hadith of the messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), therefore, Allah Most High would continue the project to operate out of His Mercy.

Whatever little finances we had, we continued to operate with it. Since this project was not Zakat eligible, those funds could not be allocated to this project.

The Department of Mawsū’ah al-Hadith

Henceforth, a separate department by the name of Mawsū’ah al-Hadith (موسوعة الحديث) was established within Dār al-‘Ulūm Karachi. A small group of researchers was formed so that by working on this project they could gain hands-on experience in researching hadith.

After laying down its methodology, this project needed a leader with rigorous qualifications: he had to be experienced, intimately familiar with the science of hadith, skillful in the art of writing scholarly publications, as well as proficient in the use of computers. Praise be to Allah that Shaykh Na’īm Ashraf[8] was appointed to this position, may Allah bless his life, knowledge, and endeavors.

Hence, they began the work fifteen years ago with very limited resources, having trust only in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Since then, Shaykh Na’īm Ashraf has been dedicating three hours a day to supervise the work. After every dhuhr salāh he brings the draft of ahadith of that day for my review; I give any needed suggestions regarding it, which are then accounted for, and the ahadith are brought for my further review the next day. The finalized ahadith get included in the encyclopedia after my signature approval. This is how the work has been progressing on a daily basis, all thanks are due to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

The Methodology

The intended purpose of the project is to include in Al-Mudawwanah all the marfū’ ahadith[9] that are available in print or in manuscripts from anywhere in the world, and assign a unique number to them along with their variations in the chain of narrators.

The total number of source works have reached up to 910 – comprising of primary and secondary books of hadith, the books of tafsīr, takhrīj, and shuruāt al-hadith[10]. From these, 80 books are the primary sources of hadith because of their original sanad and matn, while the rest are being used as supplementary sources for attesting the primary ahadith. These 80 books are the most commonly referenced works in the field of hadith, as most of the ahadith are found within them, and their authors have narrated them on the authority of their own chain of narrators. If any unique hadith is found in the secondary sources then they are also given a unique number.

An additional feature of Al-Mudawwanah is that we are mentioning the grading of ahadith with their sanad by mentioning the statement from the mutaqaddimīn scholars if available. In the occasion when a comment from the mutaqaddimīn scholars is unavailable, we do not mention our own comment on the hadith, or that of our contemporaries, unless there is a pressing need, in which case the grading of hadith is added in the footnote.

The Arrangement of Al-Mudawwanah

Regarding the arrangement of hadith, we pondered over whether it should be in alphabetical order or based on topics (abwāb). We decided that the alphabetical order would not be beneficial because ahadith, specifically the ahadith al-Fi’liyyah[11], have differences in their text and chain. Hence, Al-Mudawwanah is being arranged according to the abwāb, however, care is being taken that the abwāb do not reflect any particular juristic or theological school.

Al-Hadith al-Mukhtār

Under each chapter, the first hadith is declared as al-Hadith al-Mukhtār (الحديث المختار), which is a marfū’ hadith that is mentioned with its complete chain and has the strongest chain of narrators. This hadith is assigned a unique international number.

The second hadith is at-arīq al-Ajma’ (الطريق الأجمع) and it is also brought with its full chain. The benefit of this second hadith is that it often provides the complete background and context of the narration of al-Hadith al-Mukhtār.

After mentioning at-arīq al-Ajma’, all the different chains that are found in the books that are narrated from the companion of al-Hadith al-Mukhtār are mentioned, along with any important variations in their wordings.

Next, different mutūn (texts) of the hadith that are reported from other noble companions are therefore brought as Shāhid (corroborating evidence) and these reports are assigned subsidiary numbers.

Example: The Famous Hadith an-Niyyah

In order to explain this by an example, the first volume of Al-Mudawwanah is “Kitāb al-Imān”, and it begins with the Hadith an-Niyyah: إنما الأعمال بالنيات.

The strongest chain for this hadith is the one narrated by ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb and recorded in aī al-Bukhārī. Therefore, this report is declared al-Hadith al-Mukhtār, and it is mentioned with its complete chain and assigned a unique international number of Hadith #1.

Following it are 43 different chains of transmission of this hadith that are reported from ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, which are found elsewhere within aī al-Bukhārī and other compilations, along with any variations in their wordings.

Moreover, Hadith an-Niyyah is also narrated by other noble companions, which are brought as shawāhid (corroborating evidence) and are assigned subsidiary numbers.

A subsidiary number of 1/1 is assigned to a report narrated by Abu Sa’īd al-Khudri as recorded by Imam Abu Nu’aym in ilyat-ul-Awliya’; 2/1 is assigned to a report that is narrated by Abu ad-Dardā’ and recorded by Imam Ṭabarānī in his Mu’jam al-Kabīr; 3/1 is a report that is recorded in Tārīkh ad-Dimashq of Ibn ‘Asākir on the authority of Anas; 4/1 is assigned for a report in Tārīkh Nīsābūrī of Ḥākim on the authority of Abu Hurayrah. 5/1 is a hadith reported by Muḥammad bin Yāsir al-Jiyāni on the authority of ‘Ali ibn Abi Ṭālib; 6/1 is a report on the authority of Hizāl bin Yazid that is recorded in Tārīkh Nīsābūrī; and 7/1 is a report that Ibn Bakkar has narrated as a Mursal hadith[12] on the authority of Muḥammad bin Ibrahīm bin al-Ḥārith, which is recorded in Khaāi al-Madīnah.

In summary, wherever this hadith is found in the available classical hadith sources (maādir), they are all detailed in Al-Mudawwanah. Moreover, each sanad is cited with its complete reference, i.e. the name of the book, the volume and page number, and the chapter heading and hadith number found within it.

Therefore, now it would suffice to say, “Al-Mudawwanah Al-Jāmi’ah, Hadith #1”, while making a reference to Hadith an-Niyyah, as Al-Mudawwanah Al-Jāmi’ah will provide all the pertinent details regarding this hadith and all of its different chains of transmission in a single place.

The Digitization of Al-Mudawwanah

When Shaykh Na’īm Ashraf presented the very initial draft of Al-Mudawwanah to the honorable advising committee, it was well-received and approved. Furthermore, Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami suggested that this work should be digitized. We felt this suggestion quite appropriate and relevant to the needs of our time.

Therefore, Shaykh Na’īm Ashraf drafted a layout for data entry software for this project and hired a company. By the grace of Allah, the database software is in the Arabic language and fully capable of handling the data entry, searching and reporting, and more importantly, the composing needs of this project.

The Work Accomplished Thus Far

Thus far, all thanks are due to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that 17,334 ahadith have been worked upon along with their 340,499 different chains of transmission.

The first volume of Al-Mudawwanah, consisting of a complete Kitāb al-Imān, has been published in high quality with the help of Dār al-Qalam, a Beirut publishing house.

The Kitāb al-Imān of Al-Mudawwanah consists of 445 unique ahadith with their 9,423 chains of transmission, whereas, an additional 515 are those ahadith that have been brought as shawāhid (corroborating evidences). Hence, the total number of ahadith under Kitāb al-Imān has reached 960[13].

The work is in constant progress with additional ahadith and their chains being added. By the will of Allah, Al-Mudawwanah is expected to have over 40 volumes.

I have personally reviewed each and every hadith, their chain of narrators, accompanied by my comments and recommendations. Each hadith was only included in Al-Mudawwanah after my signature approval.

The researchers in service of Al-Mudawwanah, under the leadership of Shaykh Na’īm Ashraf, deserve our heartfelt congratulations for their effort, endurance, and dedication with which they worked on this project. May Allah accept their services and bestow upon them increased taufīq, Ameen

Their names are:
Maulāna Mukarram Ḥussain Akhtar,
Maulāna Muḥammad ‘Abbas al-Derwī,
Maulāna ‘Abdur-Raḥmān Owais al-Marghuzī,
Maulāna Maḥmūd Ḥasan al-Kumillāī,
Maulāna ‘Ināyat-ur-Reḥmān Wahīd,
Maulāna ‘Abdur-Raḥmān al-Ḥamīdi,
Maulāna ‘Abdul ‘Azīz al-Sindhi,
Maulāna Muḥammad Taimūr al-Marghuzī,
Maulāna ‘Ubaydullah Anwar al-Multani,
Maulāna Muḥammad Ṭayyab al-Ḥussaini.

The readers are requested to supplicate to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for this project to reach its completion with sincerity and trust.

Since it is after all a human effort, the reason behind the publication of the first volume is for the people of knowledge, specifically those familiar with the hadith sciences, to review this volume and share with us any beneficial recommendations.

We ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to bestow His barakah upon this humble effort, and make it a historical milestone in the service of the noble hadith, and make this encyclopedia the most comprehensive reference work in hadith for the generations to come. Ameen.

Muḥammad Taqī ‘Uthmānī
Jumāda al-Thānī 1439 A.H. (March 2018)
Karachi, Pakistan.


Footnotes:
[1] The English translation of the verses of the Qur’an are taken from “The Meanings of the Noble Qur’an” by Shaykh al-Islām Mufti Taqī ‘Uthmānī.
[2] The six books of “al-iā al-Sitta” (also known as “al-Kutub al-Sitta”) are aī al-Bukhārī, aī al-Muslim, Jāmi’ at-Tirmidhī, Sunan Abī Dāwūd, Sunan an-Nasā’ī, and Sunan Ibn Mājah.
[3] Matn: “The matn (text) is the wording of the hadith by which meanings are formed.” Isnād: “Isnād is [the act of] reporting the chain of the text. By this, it is clear that the text is the point at which the chain of transmission ends.” (Al-‘Uthmānī, Zafar. “Qawā’id fi ‘Ulūm al-Hadith,” pg. 45. London: Turath Publishing, 2014)
[4] Takhrīj: Referencing hadith from the classical sources.
[5] Marfū’: “The marfū’ (raised) is that which is specifically ascribed to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) [through his] words, deeds, or tacit approvals whether or not it is uninterrupted or interrupted.” (Al-‘Uthmānī, Zafar. Pg. 50)
[6] He received the 1980 King Faisal International Award under the category of Islamic Studies for his monumental contribution to the Hadith Sciences, “Studies of the Prophet’s Hadith.” http://kingfaisalprize.org/professor-mohamad-mustafa-al-aazami/
[7] Nephew of Shaykh Abu Fattah Abu Ghuddah. He is an active member of Islamic Fiqh Academy and the Accounting & Auditing Standards Board of Islamic Financial Institutions. He teaches Fiqh, Islamic studies and Arabic in Riyadh and has done a valuable task of researching and compiling information for the Fiqh Encyclopedia in the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in Kuwait. He was a member of the Fatwa Board in the Ministry from 1982 to 1990. Dr. Ghuddah holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Law from Al-Azhar University Cairo, Egypt.
[8] He specialized in hadith under Shaykh ‘Abdur Rashīd Nu’māni. He is also intimately familiar with the Science of Hadith, skillful in the art of writing scholarly publications, for example, his researched and edited works include Shar at-ībī (شرح الطيبي) in 12 volumes and al-Muī al-Burhānī (المحيط البرهاني), an encyclopedia of the Hanafi juristic school in 25 volumes.
[9] See footnote #5.
[10] Out of the total 910 source works, 80 are the primary books of hadith that are commonly referred to; while the remaining 830 are the secondary source works, of which 111 are the books of tafsīr, takhrīj, and shuruāt al-hadith.
[11] The Prophetic Traditions that refer to the practice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).
[12] Mursal: When a Tābi’ī (Follower) narrates a hadith saying, “The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said such-and-such or he did such-and-such.” and by doing so omits the name of the Companion, is called a mursal hadith.
[13] Shaykh Na’īm Ashraf: “All thanks are due to Allah, we are not aware of any book that contains such a large number of only marfū’ ahadith on the topic of Imān alone.”

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    aronno

    May 10, 2018 at 7:25 PM

    Alhamdulillah! It is simply amazing. May Allah (SWT) bless those people who are attached with this project and bless us to get maximum benefit from this work. Ameen!

  2. Avatar

    Abdullah

    May 14, 2018 at 6:32 PM

    Whoa! Just beginning such a work is such a major accomplishment, let alone the publishing of the first volume of this work, particularly if completed would go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest works of hadith ever to be known to our din. Truly I wonder at the scholarship of Mufti Taqi Usmani hafidhahullah and his team of researchers. This should be a lesson for the tendentious pamphlet readers who promote pamphlet Islam. This is what visionary scholarship looks like, where 40 volume works drawing on 910 sources are utilized. May Allah grant tawfiq to Mufti Taqi to complete this work.

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#Islam

The Spirituality Of Gratitude

Shaykh Tarik Ata

Published

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Gratitude

The Quran tells the reader of the importance of gratitude in two ways. First, worship, which is the essence of the relationship between man and the Creator, is conditional to gratitude “and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship” (2:172). The verse suggests that in order for an individual to truly worship Allah then they must express gratitude to Allah and that an ungrateful individual cannot be a worshiper of Allah. The second verse states the following “And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me” (2:152). The Arabic word used, translated here as ‘deny,’ is kufr which linguistically means to cover up. The word was adopted by the Quran to refer to someone who rejects Allah after learning of Him. Both the linguistic and Quranic definitions are possibly meant in this verse and both arrive at the same conclusion. That is, the absence of gratitude is an indicator of one’s rejection of Allah; the question is how and why?

What Does Shukr Mean?

Understanding a Quranic concept begins with understanding the word chosen by the Quran. The word shukr is used throughout the Quran and is commonly translated as gratitude. From a purely linguistic definition, shukr is “the effect food has on the body of an animal” (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 200). What is meant here is that when an animal eats food it becomes heavier which has a clear and visible effect on the animal. Therefore, shukr is the manifestation of a blessing or blessings on the entirety of a person. From here, spiritualists understood the goal of shukr and added an extra element to the definition and that is the acknowledgment that those blessings are from Allah. Thus, the definition of shukr as an Islamic spiritual concept is “the manifestation of Allah’s blessings verbally through praise and acknowledgment; emotionally on the heart through witnessing the blessings and loving Allah; and physically through submission and servitude” (Ibid).

Based on this definition, the goal of shukr can be broken into five categories. First, gratitude that brings about the submission of the individual to his benefactor. In order for an act to be worthy of gratitude, the beneficiary must conclude that the benefactor’s action was done for the sake of the beneficiary – thus making the benefactor benevolent. In other words, the benefactor is not benefiting in the least (Emmons et al 2004 p. 62). When the individual recognizes his benefactor, Allah, as being completely independent of the individual and perfect in of himself, one concludes that the actions of the benefactor are purely in the best interest of the beneficiary resulting in the building of trust in Allah. The Quran utilizes this point multiple times explicitly stating that Allah has nothing to gain from the creations servitude nor does he lose anything from because of their disobedience (Q 2:255, 4:133, 35:15, 47:38). Through shukr, a person’s spirituality increases by recognizing Allah’s perfection and their own imperfection thus building the feeling of need for Allah and trust in him (Emmons et al 2002 p. 463).

Gratitude in Knowing That Allah Loves Us

The second category is love for the benefactor. Similar to the previous category, by identifying the motive of the benefactor one can better appreciate their favors. “Gratitude is fundamentally a moral affect with empathy at its foundation: In order to acknowledge the cost of the gift, the recipient must identity with the psychological state of the one who has provided it” (Emmons 2002 p. 461).[1] That is, by recognizing Allah’s perfection one concludes that his blessings are entirely in the best interest of the beneficiary despite not bringing any return to Him. Thus, the Quran utilizes this concept repeatedly and to list a few, the Quran reminds the human reader that he created the human species directly with his two hands (38:75), he created them in the best physical and mental form (95:4), gave him nobility (17:70), commanded the angels to prostrate to him out of reverence (38:72-3), made him unique by giving him knowledge and language (2:31), exiled Satan who refused to revere him (7:13), allowed him into Paradise (7:19), forgave his mistake (2:37), designated angels to protect each individual (13:11) and supplicate Allah to forgive the believers (40:7-9), created an entire world that caters to his needs (2:29), among plenty of other blessings which express Allah’s love, care, and compassion of the human.

The remaining three categories revolve around the individual acting upon their gratitude by acknowledging them, praising Allah for them and using them in a manner acceptable to Allah. In order for gratitude to play a role in spirituality the blessings one enjoys must be utilized in a manner that connects them with Allah. Initially, one must acknowledge that all blessings are from him thus establishing a connection between the self and Allah. This is then elevated to where the individual views these blessings as more than inanimate objects but entities that serve a purpose. By doing this one begins to see and appreciate the wisdoms behind these created entities enlightening the individual to the Creators abilities and qualities. Finally, after recognizing the general and specific wisdoms behind each creation, one feels a greater sense of purpose, responsibility, and loyalty. That is, engaging the previous five categories establishes love for the benefactor (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 203). Observing the care and compassion of the benefactor for his creation establishes the feeling of loyalty towards the one who has cared for us as well as responsibility since He created everything with purpose.

Blessings Even in Hardship

One may interject by referring to the many individuals and societies that are plagued with hardships and do not have blessings to appreciate. No doubt this is a reality and the Quran address this indirectly. Upon analysis, one finds that the blessings which the Quran references and encourages the reader to appreciate are not wealth or health; rather, it is the sun, the moon, trees, and the natural world in general. Perhaps the reason for this is what shukr seeks to drive us towards. There are two things all these objects have in common (1) they are gifts given by Allah to all humans and all individuals enjoy them and (2) humans are dependent upon them. Everyone has access to the sun, no one can take it away, and we are critically dependent upon it. When the Quran draws our attention to these blessings, the reader should begin to appreciate the natural world at a different level and Surah an Nahl does precisely that. This chapter was likely revealed during the time of hijrah (immigration); a time when the companions lost everything – their homes, wealth, and tribes. The chapter works to counsel them by teaching them that the true blessings a person enjoys is all around them and no matter how much was taken from them, no one can take away the greater blessings of Allah.

In sum, these verses bring light to the crucial role shukr plays in faith. It serves as a means to better know Allah which can be achieved through a series of phases. First, the individual must search for the blessings which then leads to a shift in perspective from focusing on the wants to focusing on what is available. This leads to greater appreciation and recognition of the positives in one’s life allowing the person more optimism. Second, the person must link those blessings to the benefactor – Allah – which reveals many elements of who He is and His concern for His creation. Once this is internalized in the person’s hearts, its benefits begin to manifest itself on the person’s heart, mind, and body; it manifests itself in the form of love for Allah and submission to him. Shukr ultimately reveals the extent of Allah’s love and concern for the individual which therein strengthens the trust and love of the individual for Allah and ultimately their submission to Him.

Allah knows best.

Emmons, Robert A., and Charles M. Shelton. “Gratitude and the science of positive psychology.” Handbook of positive psychology 18 (2002): 459-471.

Emmons, Robert A., and Michael E. McCullough, eds. The psychology of gratitude. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Jawziyyah, Ibn Qayyim. madārij al-sālikīn bayn manāzil iyyāka naʿbud wa iyyāka nastaʿīn مدارج السالكين بين منازل إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين [The Levels of Spirituality between the Dynamics of “It is You Alone we Worship and it is You Alone we Seek Help From]. Cario: Hadith Publications, 2005.

[1] Islamically speaking, it is not befitting to claim that Allah has a psyche or that he can be analyzed psychologically.

Download a longer version of this article here: The Sprituality of Gratitude

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Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Alhamdulillah, it’s a great blessing of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that He has given us both the opportunity and ability to come here tonight to study and explore the meanings of His words in Surah Maryam. I’m truly grateful for this opportunity. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accept this effort from all of us and place it on our scale of good deeds.

Alhamdulillah, in our last series we were able to complete the tafsir of Surah Al-Kahf. InshAllah, in this next series, we’ll be exploring the meanings, lessons, and reminders of Surah Maryam. Tafsīr is an extremely noble and virtuous discipline. The reason why it’s so noble and virtuous is that it’s the study of the divine speech of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). As mentioned in a hadith the superiority of the speech of Allah over all other speech is like the superiority of Allah over all of His creation. There’s nothing more beneficial and virtuous than studying the Quran. And by doing so we’ll be counted amongst the best of people. As the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “the best amongst you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.”

All of us need to build a stronger relationship with the Quran. The Quran is full of wisdom and guidance in every single verse and word. It’s our responsibility to seek that guidance, understand it, contextualize it and more importantly act upon it. Tafsīr is such a unique science that it brings together all of the other Islamic sciences. While exploring a Surah a person comes across discussions regarding Arabic grammar and morphology, rhetoric, Ahādīth, fiqh, sīrah and all those studies that are known as the Islamic Sciences. One scholar described the Quran as an ocean that has no shore, بحر لا ساحل له. The more we study the Qur’ān the stronger our relationship with it will become. We’ll become more and more attached to it and will be drawn into its beauty and wonder. The deeper a person gets into tafsir and studying the more engaged and interested they become. They also recognize how little they truly know. It develops humility. That’s the nature of true knowledge. The more we learn the more we recognize we don’t know. May Allah ﷻ allow us all to be sincere and committed students of the Qur’ān.

Surah Maryam

Surah Maryam is the 19th surah in the Quran. It is a relatively long Makki surah made up of 98 verses. Some commentators mention that it’s the 44th Surah to be revealed, after Surah Al-Fatir and before Surah Taha. It has been given the name Maryam because Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions the story of Maryam (as) and her family and how she gave birth to Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) miraculously at the beginning of the Surah. Just like other Makkan surahs, it deals with the most fundamental aspects of our faith. It talks about the existence and oneness of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), prophethood, and resurrection and recompense.

The Surah is made up of a series of unique stories filled with guidance and lessons that are meant as reminders. One of the main themes of this Surah is mercy… It has been mentioned over 16 times in this Surah. We’ll find the words of grace, compassion and their synonyms frequently mentioned throughout the sūrah, together with Allah’s attributes of beneficence and mercy. We can say that one of the objectives of the Surah is to establish and affirm the attribute of mercy for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). That’s why all of the stories mentioned also have to do with Allah’s mercy.

Another objective of the Surah is to remind us of our relationship with Allah ﷻ; the concept of Al-‘Ubūdiyyah. These are the two major themes or ideas of this Surah; the concept of Rahmah and the concept of ‘Ubūdiyyah (Mercy and Servitude).

The Surah can be divided into 8 sections:

1) Verses 1-15: The surah starts with the story of Zakariyya (as) and how he was given the gift of a child at a very old age, which was something strange and out of the ordinary.

2) Verses 16-40: mention the story of Maryam and the miraculous birth of Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) without a father and how her community responded to her.

3) Verses 41-50: The surah then briefly mentions one part of the story of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), specifically the conversation he had with his father regarding the worship of idols. The surah then briefly mentions a series of other Prophets.

4) Verses 51-58: Mention Musa and Haroon 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), Ismail 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Idrees 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to show that the essence of the message of all Prophets was the same

5) Verses 59-65: compare and contrast the previous generations with the current ones in terms of belief and actions.

6) Verses 66-72: Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) addresses the Mushrikoon rejecting their false claims regarding life after death and judgment.

7) Verses 73-87: continue to address the Mushrikoon and warn them regarding their attitude towards belief in Allah and His messengers. They also mention the great difference between the resurrection of the believer and the resurrection of the non-believer.

8) Verses 88-98: contain a severe warning to those who claim that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has taken a child. They also express that Allah is pleased with the believers and mentions that one of the objectives of the Quran is to give glad tidings to the believers and to warn the non-believers.

Story

From various narrations, we learn that this surah was revealed near the end of the fourth year of Prophethood. This was an extremely difficult time for Muslims. The Quraysh were frustrated with their inability to stop the message of Islam from spreading so they became ruthless. They resorted to any method of torture that they could think of; beating, starving and harassing. When the persecution became so severe that it was difficult for the Muslims to bear it, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) gave permission to migrate to Abyssinia. “For in it dwells a king in whose presence no one is harmed.” 10 men and 4 women migrated in the 5th year of Prophethood secretly. After a few months, a larger group of 83 men and 18 women migrated as well. This migration added more fuel to the fire. It enraged the people of Quraysh.

Umm Salamah [rahna]narrated, “When we stopped to reside in the land of Abyssinia we lived alongside the best of neighbors An-Najashi. We practiced our religion safely, worshipped Allah without harm and didn’t hear anything we disliked. When news of our situation reached the Quraysh they started to plot against us…” They decided to send two delegates to persuade An-Najashi to send the Companions back by offering him and his ministers’ gifts. The plan was to go to each minister with gifts and turn them against the Muslims. So they went to each minister with gifts and said, “Verily, foolish youth from amongst us have come to the country of your king; they have abandoned the religion of their people and have not embraced your religion. Rather they have come with a new religion that neither of us knows. The noblemen of their people, from their fathers and uncles, have sent us to the king asking that he send them back. So when we speak to the king regarding their situation advise him to surrender them to us and to not speak to them…” The minister agreed.

Then they went to the king, offered him gifts and said the same thing… The ministers tried to convince him as well. An-Najashi became angry with them and said, “No, by Allah, I will not surrender them to these two and I don’t fear the plotting of a people who have become my neighbors, have settled down in my country, and have chosen me (to grant them refuge) over every other person. I will not do so until I summon them and speak to them. If they are as these two say I will give them up, but if they aren’t then I will protect them from these two and continue to be a good neighbor to them as long as they are good neighbors to me.”

al-Najāshī then summoned the Prophet’s ﷺ Companions. When his messenger informed the Prophet’s Companions that they were to appear before the king, they gathered together to discuss what they should do. One of them asked, “What will you say to the name (al-Najāshī) when you go to him?” They all agreed on what they would say to him, “By Allah, we will say what our Prophet ﷺ taught us and commanded us with, regardless of the consequences.” Meanwhile, al-Najāshī called for his priests, who gathered around him with their scrolls spread out before them. When the Muslims arrived al-Najāshī began by asking them, “What is this religion for which you have parted from your people? You have not entered into the fold of my religion, nor the religion of any person from these nations.”

Umm Salamah [rahna] narrated, “The Person among us who would speak to him was Jaʿfar ibn abī Ṭālib [rahnu] who then said, “O king, we were an ignorant people: we worshipped idols, we would eat from the flesh of dead animals, we would perform lewd acts, we would cut off family ties, and we would be bad neighbors; the strong among us would eat from the weak. We remained upon that state until Allah sent us a Messenger, whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and chastity we already knew. He invited us to Allah – to believe in His oneness and to worship Him; to abandon all that we and our fathers worshipped besides Allah, in terms of stones and idols. He ﷺ commanded us to speak truthfully, to fulfill the trust, to join ties of family relations, to be good to our neighbors, and to refrain from forbidden deeds and from shedding blood. And he ﷺ forbade us from lewd acts, from uttering falsehood, from wrongfully eating the wealth of an orphan, from falsely accusing chaste women of wrongdoing. And he ﷺ ordered us to worship Allah alone and to not associate any partners with him in worship; and he ﷺ commanded us to pray, to give zakāh, and to fast.” He enumerated for al-Najāshī the teachings of Islam. He said, “And we believe him and have faith in him. We follow him in what he came with. And so we worship Allah alone, without associating any partners with Him in worship. We deem forbidden that which he has made forbidden for us, and we deem lawful that which he made permissible for us. Our people then transgressed against us and tortured us. The tried to force us to abandon our religion and to return from the worship of Allah to the worship of idols; they tried to make us deem lawful those abominable acts that we used to deem lawful. Then, when they subjugated us, wronged us, and treated us in an oppressive manner, standing between us and our religion, we came to your country, and we chose you over all other people. We desired to live alongside you, and we hoped that, with you, we would not be wronged, O king.” al-Najāshī said to Jaʿfar [rahnu], “Do you have any of that which he came with from Allah?” Jaʿfar [rahnu] said, “Yes”. “Then recite to me,” said al-Najāshī. Jaʿfar [rahnu] recited for him the beginning of Surah Maryam. By Allah, al-Najāshī began to cry, until his beard became wet with tears. And when his priests heard what Jaʿfar [rahnu] was reciting to them, they cried until their scrolls became wet. al-Najāshī then said, “By Allah, this and what Mūsa (as) came with come out of the same lantern. Then by Allah, I will never surrender them to you, and henceforward they will not be plotted against and tortured.”

Describing what happened after the aforementioned discussion between al-Najāshī and Jaʿfar [rahnu], Umm Salamah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “When both ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ and ʿAbdullah ibn abī Rabīʿah left the presence of al-Najāshī, ʿAmr [rahnu] said, “By Allah tomorrow I will present to him information about them with which I will pull up by the roots their very lives.” Abdullah ibn Rabīʿah who was more sympathetic of the two towards us said, “Don’t do so, for they have certain rights of family relations, even if they have opposed us.” ʿAmr said, “By Allah, I will inform him that they claim that ʿĪsā ibn Maryam is a slave.”

He went to the king on the following day and said, “O king, verily, they have strong words to say about ʿĪsa (as). Call them here and ask them what they say about him.” al-Najāshī sent for them in order to ask them about ʿĪsa. Nothing similar to this befell us before. The group of Muslims gathered together and said to one another, “What will you say about ʿĪsa when he asks you about him?” They said, “By Allah, we will say about him that which Allah says and that which our Prophet ﷺ came with, regardless of the outcome.” When they entered into his presence, he said to them, “What do you say about ʿĪsa ibn Maryam?” Jaʿfar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “We say about him that which our Prophet ﷺ came with – that he is the slave of Allah, His messenger, a spirit created by Him, and His word, which he bestowed on Maryam, the virgin, the baṭūl.”

al-Najāshī struck his hand on the ground and took from it a stick. He then said, “ʿĪsa ibn Maryam did not go beyond what you said even the distance of the stick.” When he said this, his ministers spoke out in anger, to which he responded, “What I said is true even if you speak out in anger, by Allah. (Turning to the Muslims, he said) Go, for you are safe in my land. Whoever curses you will be held responsible. And I would not love to have a reward of gold in return for me hurting a single man among you. (Speaking to his ministers he said) Return to these two (men) their gifts, since we have no need for them. For by Allah, Allah did not take from me bribe money when He returned to me my kingdom, so why should I take bribe money. The two left, defeated and humiliated; and returned to them were the things they came with. We then resided alongside al-Najāshī in a very good abode, with a very good neighbor.”

The response was simply amazing in its eloquence. A believer puts the needs of his soul before the needs of his body. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) starts the Surah by saying,

Verse 1: Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) starts Surah Maryam with a series of five letters. There are many different saying or explanations regarding these five letters. The most correct opinion is that these are from the broken letters. There are 29 different Surahs in the Quran that start with the broken letters. Only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone knows the meanings of these letters. They are a secret from amongst the secrets of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), meaning that no one knows what they truly mean. Only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows their meanings so they are from amongst the Mutashaabihat, those verses whose meanings are hidden.

However, we do find that some great Companions, as well as their students, sometimes gave meanings to these words. For example, it’s said that it is in acronym and each letter represents one of the names of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Kaf is for Al-Kafi or Al-Kareem, “haa” is for Al-Hadi, “yaa” is from Hakeem or Raheem, “’ayn” is from Al-‘Aleem or Al-‘Adheem, and “saad” is from Al-Saadiq. Others said that it is one of the names of Allah and it’s actually Al-Ism Al-‘Atham or that it’s a name of the Quran. However, these narrations can’t be used as proof or to assign definitive meanings. They offer possibilities, but no one truly knows what they mean.

Now the question should come to our mind that why would Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) start of a Surah with words that no one understands?

1) To grab the attention of the listeners.

2) To remind us that no matter how much we know there’s always something that we don’t know.

3) These letters are the letters of the Arabic language and the Quran was revealed at a time that was the peak of eloquence of the language and it was their identity. The Quran was revealed challenging them spiritually and intellectually. The Arabs never heard these letters being used in such a majestic way.

4) To prove the inimitable nature of the Quran.

Allah then starts the story of Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was one of the Prophets sent to Bani Israel. He was the husband of Maryam’s paternal aunt. He was also one of the caretakers or custodians of Baitul Maqdis.

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