Saturday, 22 September 2018

Reality of Abu Sufyan


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على خاتم النبيين

وعلى اهل بيته الطيبين الطاهرين المظلومين

والعاقبة للمتقين

Two weeks ago, at my local mosque on the occasion of the Friday prayer service, the designated khatib spoke on the virtues of the sacred month of Muharram. He began by stating that Muslims should celebrate the first day of Muharram as the “Islamic New Year”, as it is the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Pointing out that many Muslims offer felicitations on New Year’s Eve of the Gregorian/Western calendar, to celebrate the so-called “Islamic New Year” is worthier of them. Incidentally, the khatib did not make any mention, either explicit or implicit, of the tragic event of Karbala that occurred on Ashura, the 10th of Muharram, which was only a few days away. Regrettably, the entire purpose of this Friday sermon was against the spirit and letter of Islam. Firstly, to take the first of Muharram as an Eid, a festive celebration, is no doubt a reprehensible bid‘a that has absolutely no sanction in the Shari‘a. The Prophet Muhammad would repeatedly and regularly say in his own sermons:

وَشَرَّ الأُمُورِ مُحْدَثَاتُهَا وَكُلَّ مُحْدَثَةٍ بِدْعَةٌ وَكُلَّ بِدْعَةٍ ضَلاَلَةٌ وَكُلَّ ضَلاَلَةٍ فِي النَّارِ

“The worst of things are those that are newly invented; every newly-invented thing is an innovation and every innovation is going astray, and every going astray is in the Fire.”

Neither the Prophet , nor his Sahaba, and nor the Tabi‘in and the Tabi at-Tabi‘in (Allah be pleased with them) ever celebrated the 1st of Muharram as the “Islamic New Year” or even congratulated each other on that occasion. Some Sunni Muslims have initiated another innovation of commemorating the martyrdom of sayyidina Umar al-Faruq ؓ on the 1st of Muharram. This despite the fact that it is not proven that sayyidina Umar al-Faruq ؓ was martyred on that day. In fact, according to the Imam and Muhaddith, Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, sayyidina Umar b. Khattab ؓ was martyred on the 26th of Dhul-Hijja. The fact of the matter is that both of these innovations, especially the second of the two, are motivated by a desire to distance the Sunnis from the Shi‘ite narrative concerning Karbala and the martyrdom of sayyidina Husayn on Ashura. Certain Sunnis, who exhibit Nasibi characteristics, feel that the consciousness in the Sunni public regarding the event of Karbala is driving them to accept the Shi‘ite narrative to the detriment of Sunnism. Furthermore, they feel that the Shi‘ite narrative, which must be confronted year after year in the sacred month of Muharram, is slowly extinguishing the love and attachment to certain Sahaba in the hearts and minds of the Sunni public. The Sahaba I am referring to here are Abu Sufyan and his son Mu‘awiya. In a previous entry, just two days short of exactly a year ago, I wrote concerning my position on Mu‘awiya. Here I would like to elaborate that regarding Mu‘awiya I strive to follow the Hadith of the Prophet :

إِذَا ذُكِرَ أَصْحَابِي فَأَمْسِكُوا ، وَإِذَا ذُكِرَ الْقَدَرُ فَأَمْسِكُوا ، وَإِذَا ذُكِرَ النُّجُومُ فَأَمْسِكُوا

“If my Companions are mentioned, then keep quiet; if the stars are mentioned, then keep quiet; and if the divine decree is mentioned, then keep quiet.”

(Mu‘jam al-Kabir lil-Tabarani)

The intent of this Hadith is that the Sahaba should never be disparaged, not that they cannot be praised or their virtues extolled. Similarly, to keep quiet regarding the stars means not to attribute any connection to the stars and human affairs and events as the infidel astrologers do, and to keep quiet regarding the divine decree means not to deny it or question it. There is no problem with discussing the scientific reality of the stars and planets, and there is no problem with explaining the reality of Qadr and the sound creed regarding it from the texts of Qur`an and Sunna. Along these lines, there is no problem in discussing the Sahaba with the intent of praising and extolling their virtues, or even learning a positive lesson from their mistakes. The Sahaba were human beings like us. They were not Angels or even Prophets, hence they made mistakes and fell into human error. Nonetheless, it is forbidden to criticize the Sahaba with a hostile intent, and it is forbidden to denounce or revile them. Now if someone cannot bring himself to praise Mu‘awiya or invoke Allah’s happiness and mercy upon him, he should simply remain silent concerning Mu‘awiya and say nothing about him at all, either positive or negative. That is a safe position and keeping with the strict order of the Prophet : “when my companions are mentioned then withhold” and:

وَمَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَلْيَقُلْ خَيْرًا أَوْ لِيَصْمُتْ

“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good or keep quiet”

(Bukhari & Muslim)

With regard to Abu Sufyan and his son Mu‘awiya, it should be remembered that both of them converted to Islam after the Conquest of Mecca, and are hence not included in the more virtuous and superior categories of the Muhajirin and the Ansar. By converting to Islam in the lifetime of the Prophet , they were granted the honor of becoming his companions. The Prophet even made a specific prayer for Mu‘awiya:

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهُ هَادِيًا مَهْدِيًّا وَاهْدِ بِهِ

“Allahumma! Make him a guide, guided one, and guide (others) by him”

(Jami at-Tirmidhi #3842, #3843)

The companions, however, are not all at the same level and status. They can be divided into many categories organized as a pyramid. It can even be legitimately argued that in the context of his own lifetime when thousands of people had become Muslims, when the Prophet spoke of his “companions” he meant the most senior Sahaba, who were with him in Medina, those individuals who were constantly at his side, walking and sitting with him regularly. Furthermore, a true Sahabi, for our purpose, is someone who not only saw the Prophet in a state of faith, but in addition to that, did not apostatize from Islam after the Prophet‘s death, nor was a munafiq (hypocrite). Otherwise, we know that on Judgment Day the Prophet shall recognize certain individuals who he will remember as his companions, but the Angels shall inform him that they became apostates after he passed away, and are therefore being interned in Hell. Furthermore, there were a number of hypocrites who were outwardly close companions of the Prophet . The Prophet knew who some of those hypocrites were, and even informed sayyidina Hudayfa b. Yaman ؓ as to their identity, but there were other hypocrites who had managed to hide their hypocrisy so well that even the Prophet did not know who they were:

وَمِنْ أَهْلِ الْمَدِينَةِ ۖ مَرَدُوا عَلَى النِّفَاقِ لَا تَعْلَمُهُمْ

And from the people of Medina they persist in hypocrisy, you (O Prophet ) know them not

(Sura 9:101)

Now I do not dare say that Abu Sufyan, the father of Mu‘awiya, was a hypocrite. However, in this column I would like to expose the attitude of some of the Prophet’s senior companions toward Abu Sufyan:

عَنْ عَائِذِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو، أَنَّ أَبَا سُفْيَانَ، أَتَى عَلَى سَلْمَانَ وَصُهَيْبٍ وَبِلاَلٍ فِي نَفَرٍ فَقَالُوا وَاللَّهِ مَا أَخَذَتْ سُيُوفُ اللَّهِ مِنْ عُنُقِ عَدُوِّ اللَّهِ مَأْخَذَهَا ‏.‏ قَالَ فَقَالَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ أَتَقُولُونَ هَذَا لِشَيْخِ قُرَيْشٍ وَسَيِّدِهِمْ فَأَتَى النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَأَخْبَرَهُ فَقَالَ يَا أَبَا بَكْرٍ لَعَلَّكَ أَغْضَبْتَهُمْ لَئِنْ كُنْتَ أَغْضَبْتَهُمْ لَقَدْ أَغْضَبْتَ رَبَّكَ ‏‏.‏ فَأَتَاهُمْ أَبُو بَكْرٍ فَقَالَ يَا إِخْوَتَاهْ أَغْضَبْتُكُمْ قَالُوا لاَ يَغْفِرُ اللَّهُ لَكَ يَا أُخَىَّ

A‘idh b. Amr reported that Abu Sufyan came to Salman ؓ, Suhaib ؓ and Bilal ؓ in the presence of a group of persons. They said: “By Allah, the sword of Allah did not reach the neck of the enemy of Allah as it was required to reach.” Thereupon Abu Bakr ؓ said: “Do you say this to the old man of the Quraish and their chief?” Then he came to Allah’s Apostle and informed him of this. Thereupon he said: “Abu Bakr, you have perhaps annoyed them and if you annoyed them you have in fact annoyed your Lord.” So Abu Bakr ؓ came to them and said: “O my brothers, I have annoyed you.” They said: “No, our brother, may Allah forgive you.” (Sahih Muslim)

In summary, three of the Prophet’s senior and noble companions, the famous three non-Arabs, Salman the Persian, Suhaib the Roman, and Bilal the Ethiopian (Allah be pleased with them) referred to Abu Sufyan as the “enemy of Allah”, and this they said after Abu Sufyan had converted to Islam following the Conquest of Mecca. More importantly, the Prophet did not rebuke them for having said this, despite the complaint of sayyidina Abu Bakr ؓ to him informing him of what exactly they had said.

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