Friday, 16 November 2018

Muslim Sainthood Upon Pattern of Minor Prophethood

نحمده ونصلى ونسلم على رسوله الكريم
I recently wrote a piece in Urdu on the comparison between Wilaya (sainthood) in the Muslim Umma and the minor prophethood that existed in ancient Israel. Some mystics attribute the following Hadith to the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم:
عُلَمَاءُ أُمَّتِي كَأَنْبِيَاءِ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ
“The Ulama of my nation are like the Prophets of the children of Israel.”

However, this narration has no basis according to the Muhaddithin as it lacks any sanad that can be traced back to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. Nevertheless, its meaning is certainly correct. In a previous post, I quoted the Deobandi elder Rashid Gangohi who attributed this saying to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم despite the fact it lacks a chain of narrators through which it can be accurately traced back to the mouth of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. Likewise, Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani, founder of the Ahmadiyya movement, declared this Hadith true and as having emanated from the mouth of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم (Ruhani Khaza’in v.17 p.122).
Another narration on the authority of sayyidina Ibn Abbas رضى الله عنهما that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
إِنَّ أَقْرَبَ النَّاسِ دَرَجَةً مِنْ دَرَجَةِ النُّبُوَّةِ أَهْلُ الْجِهَادِ وَأَهْلُ الْعِلْمِ
“Verily, the closest of mankind to the level of prophethood are the people of Jihad and the people of knowledge.”
(Siyar A’lam an-Nubalaa)
This Hadith is weak due to the narrator Hafs b. Juma’i, nevertheless, its meaning is certainly correct. By the term “minor prophethood” that was present in Israel, I am referring to the numerous prophets whom Allah raised up in that nation who warned their people and rulers against idolatry. After the time of king Solomon عليه السلام the Israelites and Jews frequently relapsed into the worship of foreign “gods”. In the Hebrew Bible, there are the scriptures of twelve minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Only one of these, (Prophet Jonas) is explicitly mentioned in the holy Qur’an. Other prophets, namely, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, are considered “major prophets”, but they should in fact be included in the list of those minor prophets who were raised up in Israel during the interval between king Solomon and the Messiah of Nazareth عليهما السلام.  Although the Hebrew Bible considers Daniel a “seer” and technically not a prophet, hence why the scripture attributed to him appears in the Ketuvim and not in the Nevi’im, it is quite possible that he too was among the minor prophets. Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
لَقَدْ كَانَ فِيمَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ مِنْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ رِجَالٌ يُكَلَّمُونَ مِنْ غَيْرِ أَنْ يَكُونُوا أَنْبِيَاءَ، فَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْ أُمَّتِي مِنْهُمْ أَحَدٌ فَعُمَرُ
“There used to be from among those before you among the children of Israel men to whom (Allah) spoke despite them not having been prophets. So if there is anyone from my Umma among them it is Umar.”
(Sahih al-Bukhari)

The line between what are known as “minor prophets” in the Hebrew Bible and what the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم termed as Muhaddathin, men to whom Allah spoke despite technically not having been prophets, appears to be blurred. According to various Ahadith, almost all of which are either weak or extremely weak, there were thousands of prophets in the past, and it appears that at least half or the majority of them were raised up among Israel. Muslims commonly state that there were 124 thousand prophets, but Allah knows best. It appears to me that the number of prophets probably runs into the thousands, and certainly into the hundreds. It is also true that a disproportionately large number of prophets were sent to the children of Israel as compared to other nations. Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم  verified this fact:
كَانَتْ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ تَسُوسُهُمُ الأَنْبِيَاءُ، كُلَّمَا هَلَكَ نَبِيٌّ خَلَفَهُ نَبِيٌّ، وَإِنَّهُ لاَ نَبِيَّ بَعْدِي، وَسَيَكُونُ خُلَفَاءُ فَيَكْثُرُونَ
“The children of Israel were governed by the prophets. Whenever a prophet died he was succeeded by a prophet. But there is no prophet after me, yet there will come many caliphs (successors after me).”
(Bukhari & Muslim)

So it may be accepted that in ancient Israel there was a very large number of minor prophets and muhaddithin that appeared among them, having been raised up by Allah Who disclosed matters of the unseen to them, primarily concerning future punishments that would befall the nation for its continuous lapsing into idolatry and its failure to observe the strictures of the Law of Moses. Although prophethood in the formal sense and structure has ceased after the Prophet Muhammad - Seal of the Prophets -  its substance and meaning remains and is manifested in the chain of Muslim saints. The system of Wilaya or sainthood in the Muslim Umma is a reflection of and patterned upon the system of minor prophecy that existed in ancient Israel. This is because the function and attributes of our Muslim saints mirrors that of the Israelite minor prophets. Our Muslim saints attain ma’rifa or recognition of many hidden and mystical matters, through a form of divine inspiration known as kashf. Some matters of the unseen may be disclosed to them, though not as regularly or strongly as in the case of a real prophet. Furthermore, our Muslim saints are tasked by Allah to rejuvenate the faith of the Believers by inspiring them with their extreme piety and speaking out against the idolatry and corruption that has materialized in this Umma. When Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said that there would be no prophet after him but that he would be succeeded by a large number of caliphs, those caliphs include the pious Muslim saints and mystics who have appeared in this Umma in the hundreds of thousands. And this is the meaning of the Ayatayn:
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ ﴿٦﴾ صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ
Guide us to the Straight Path. The Path of those upon whom is Your favor.
(Sura 1:6-7)

As well as the meaning of the Salat al-Ibrahimiya:
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ عَبْدِكَ وَرَسُولِكَ، كَمَا صَلَّيْتَ عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ، وَبَارِكْ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ، كَمَا بَارَكْتَ عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَآلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ
“Allahumma! Prayers upon Muhammad, Your servant and Your apostle, as You prayed upon Abraham. And blessings upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, as you blessed Abraham and the family of Abraham.”

1 comment:

  1. The Prophet's صلى الله عليه وسلم words تَسُوسُهُمُ الأَنْبِيَاءُ "they were governed by the prophets" does not necessarily mean government or rule in the formal sense. Historically it is know that the majority of the kings and rulers of Israel were not even pious, let alone prophets. The minor prophets after Solomon عليه السلام who appeared in Israel often struggled with the corrupt kings of the nation who continuously lapsed into idolatry. These prophets governed the nation in the moral and spiritual sense, being its conscience and moral compass. Likewise, when Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said he would be succeeded by a large number of "caliphs" this is not necessarily a reference to the various kings and rulers in Islamic history, but rather the large number of Aimma, Ulama and Awliya who have served as the moral compass of this Umma and its spiritual, moral leadership.

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