The Sunnah: A Source of Civilization

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  • The Sunnah: A Source of Civilization

  • Discipline and Public Conduct

    Discipline in life in general is one of the aspects of Civilized Conduct that the Sunnah advocates.  

    It is well-known that, the Arabs did not lay any importance to this concept as individualism was quite prominent at that time. They rejected laws, governments and discipline with each one of them conducting his life according to his own set of rules and laws except for the measures pertaining to the security, sanctity, ambitions, and greediness of his tribe. As for those measures concerned, each one was devoted heart and soul to his tribe whether he would be in defence of truth or falsehood. He was in fact immersed in excessive individualism and prejudiced fanaticism.  

    When Islam dawned upon the Arabs, it turned their lives around, turning them into civilized persons who adhered to discipline and who respected laws in their personal and public life. Hence, no Muslim would enter someone's house - even if he was his nearest of kin, without asking permission to enter first. Asking permission could be repeated thrice, when if denied, the person should leave at once.

    It is reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:"If anyone of you asks the permission to enter thrice, and the permission isn't given, then he should return" [Note: Agreed upon on the authority of Abi Musa and Abi Sa'id, Al-Lu' `lu" Wal Marjan, (l391)]

    Also, a Muslim must not sit between two people unless they give him permission. He should sit at the farthest point of the assembly and he should sit in his place even if he left to do something and then returned.

    Islam sets the rules that govern greeting: The small number of people should greet the large number of people, the younger person should greet the older one, the one who is riding should greet the one who is walking and the one who is walking should greet the one who is sitting.

    In addition, Islam sets the rules for eating and drinking. `Umar Ibn Abi Salmah narrated that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "O boy! mention the Name of Allah and eat with your right hand, and eat from the dish that is nearer to you." [Note: Agreed upon on the authority of `Umar lbn Abi Salmah, Al-Lu `Iu' Wal Marjan, (1313)]

    The Prophet (Peace be upon him) once said to one of the younger Muslims in the assembly who wanted to speak before one of his elders without his permission: "Let the oldest speak first unless he gives you his permission".

    Every individual must respect the rights of others and adhere to the prevailing laws of buying and selling, marriage, and other transaction.

    For instance, a man should not try to cancel a sale already agreed upon between some other persons (by offering a bigger price). And a man should not ask for the hand in marriage of a girl who is already engaged to his Muslim brother, unless the first suitor gives her up, or allows him to ask for her hand.

    People must respect contracts and conditions agreed upon with others so that one's affairs and business will have stability.

    The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "The rights are decided by the conditions." [Note: Reported by Abu Dawud and AI-Hakim on the authority of Abi hurairah, Sahih Al- Jami AI-Sayhir, (No. 6714)]

    Muslims must cooperate in organizing their lives, helping one another to fulfill their obligations and take their rights.

    The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:"If three Muslims traveled, they must appoint a leader from among them." [Note: Reported by Abu Dawud on the authority of Abi Sa'id, (No.2608), and on the authority of Abu Hurairah, (No.2609). It is also reported by Al-Baihaqi in Al-Sunan, vol.5, p.257]

    `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab said: " if there is a group of three people, they must appoint one of them as a leader. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) ordered us to do so" [Note: Reported by Al-Hakim]

    In another hadith, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "If three people are in the desert, they must appoint a leader amongst them". [Note: Reported by Ahmad on the authority of `Abd Allah lbn `Amr]

    Imarn Al-Khattabi illustrated the wisdom of this Prophetic as: "The Prophet wished that the group should avoid disagreement and reach consensus. For if two men asked the judgment of a third man in a certain issue and he judged justly, then his verdict must be obeyed." [Note: Mentioned by Al-Khattabi in Ma`alim Al-Sunan, (No.2496)]

    Whenever the Prophet (Peace be upon him) sent a group on an expedition, he elected one of them as a leader and ordered them to listen and obey him. He said "Whoever obeys the leader, obeys me, and who disobeys the leader, disobeys me". [Note: Agreed upon on the authority of Abi Hurairah, Sahih Al-Jami', (No. 6044)]

    The Prophet also stated that obedience to leaders is obligatory even if he was an Ethiopian slave `Abdullah Ibn `Umar narrated that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "A Muslim must listen and obey (the order of his leader) whether he likes it or not unless he orders him to be disobedient to Allah, and if an act of disobedience (to Allah) is imposed, one should not listen to it nor obey it. [Note: Agreed upon on the authority of Ibn `Umar, the previous source, (No. 3693)]

    The Glorious Qur'an commands Muslims to obey those entrusted with authority over them, as it commands Muslims to obey Allah and His Prophet saying: "O you who believe! Obey God and obey the Messenger, and those entrusted with authority over you. But if there arises any dispute about anything refer it to God and the Messenger." (4:59)

    Furthermore, the Qur'an commands them to practice self-control concerning the matters which affect the safety of the group, to hold their tongues concerning what they do not know, and to refer such matters to those who are responsible and capable of assessing them. In this respect Allah states: "When there comes to them some matter touching (public) saftey or fear, they divulge it. If they had only referred it to the Messenger and to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have tested it from them." (4:83)

    The Mosque and the congregational Prayers were the day to day practical school, in which the Muslims were taught by their instructor, the Prophet. In it they received lessons on Tarbiyah [Note: Education and nurturing according to the guidelines of Islam] and the practical application of the principles of Islam transforming those concepts into some thing tangible and a living reality.

    In the mosque, they learnt in a practical way the necessity of the group, the importance of leadership, the value of obedience, the obligation of law and order and the respect for the rules of public conduct.

    For instance, the congregational Prayer must be led by an Imam who must be selected according to certain specifications and conditions set by the Prophet (Peace be upon him) who said: "The Imam of a people should be the one who is most versed in the Book of Allah".

    If they are equal in their recital, then he should be the one who has the most knowledge of the Sunnah. If they are equal in their knowledge of the Sunnah, then he should be the one who migrated first. If they are equal in that, then he should be the eldest. And no man should be led in Prayer among his family nor within his authority. [Note: Reported by Al-Jama'ah on the authority of Abi Mas'ud AI-Ansari, Sahih Al-Jami' Al-sayhir, (No.8011)]

    The imam must straighten the lines by word and by action until they are as straight as an arrow. There must be no curves, no gaps and no awkwardness in the line. For the awkward appearance of the lines reflects the awkwardness of the hearts. And, the different positions of the bodies foreshadows the difference between the hearts.

    The Prophet (Peace be upon him) was the model and the instructor of all these values. His noble hadiths set down the rules, clarified the particular ties of the manner of the congregational Prayer which Allah and His Prophet love. Ibn Umar reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: `"Straighten your lines and put your shoulders close to each other. Be gentle with each other and fill in the gaps for Satan to pass through it and whosoever straightens a line, Allah will straighten him (his affairs). And whosoever disrupts a line, Allah will distrupt him (his affairs) in turn. " [Note: Reported by Abu Dawud in a good transmission]

    On the authority of Al-Nu'man Ibn Bashir, who said that: "The Prophet would straighten us in our lines as one straightens an arrow, until he saw that we had understood him, then one day just as he was about to start the Prayer, he saw a person with his chest sticking out of the line, so he said: "O worshipers of Allah, straighten your lines otherwise Allah will cause us to be at variance with one another" [Note: Reported by Muslim in the book of Prayer, (No.436)]

    Anas Ibn Malik narrated "Once the "Iqama" was pro nounced and the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) faced us and said: "Straighten your lines and stand together, for I see you behind my back." [Note: Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim on the book of Prayer]

    Also Anas reported that, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Straighten your lines as straightening of lines is essential for a perfect and correct Prayer." [Note: Agreed upon] 

    Abu Mas'ud Al-Ansari reported that the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) used to pass his hand over our shoulders saying: "Straighten your lines and do not cause differences amongst you lest it differentiates between your hearts (minds). Let those who possess insight and reason follow me, then the next and so on" [Note: Reported by Muslim in the book of Prayer, (No.423,122)]

    `Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:"Let those who possess insight and reason follow me and then the next - three times, I warn you against making noise, shouting or arguing as happens in markets." [Note: Reported by Muslim in the book of Prayer, (No.422, 123)]

    Abu Sa'id AI-Khudri reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) noticed his Companions going to the back lines, and he said: "Come closer and follow me and let those behind follow you. People will continue going to the back until Allah will put them in the back." [Note: Reported by Muslim in the book of Prayer, (No. 438-1 30)]

    Jabir Ibn Samrah reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) watched us as circles, so he came out to us saying: "Why I behold you in crowds?! Then he went further saying: "Why don't you make the lines like the angels make their lines in the presence of their Lord?" We asked: "O Allah's Prophet how do the angels make their lines in the presence of their Lord?" He replied: "They complete the first line and stand closely together, side by side, in a line." [Note: Reported by Muslim in the book of Prayer, (No.430:119)]

    When the Imam starts praying, the foremost behind him must follow him. It is forbidden to precede him in bowing (Ruku'), standing erect (Qiyam), or prostration (Sujud) or in any other act during the Prayer. For this disturbs the manner of the congregation which is disciplined and controlled when it stands behind the leader.

    Anas also related: "The Imam is selected so that he is followed, therefore, do not differ with him. When he pronounces the Takbir, then pronounce, the Takbir. When he bows, then you should bow. When he stands erect then stand erect. When he says `Allah hears him who praises Him", Say "Our lord be praised". When he prostrates, you should prostrate." [Note: Agreed upon, AI-lu'lu' Wal Marjan, (No.232)]

    The imam is to be followed and his Prayer is valid unless he leaves out an obligatory act or a prerequisite of the Prayer, then the eldest, the youngest and even the women in the back lines should draw to his attention his mistake with out making a fuss or noise. A women should clap her hands even if she in the farthest line in order to make him aware of his mistake.

    The following instructive hadiths shed more light on this issue. Anas reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "O people! I am your Imam so do not precede me in bowing, prostration, standing erect nor complete the Prayer before me. By Allah, I see you from behind and before me." [Note: Reported by Muslim, (426:112)]

    Abu Hurairah also narrated that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Don't precede the Imam. Say the Takbir when he says it; bow if he bows; if he says " [Note: eported by Muslim, (No.417:8)]`Sami' allahu liman hamidah', say `Rabbana wa lakal hamd."

      AI-Baraa' Ibn `Azib narrated that they were praying behind the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and when ever he said: "Sami' allahu liman hamidah, no one bowed until we saw him touching the ground by his forehead." [Note: Agreed upon, Al-Lu `Lu' Wal Marjan, (No.274)] 

    Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Do you not fear that if you raise your head before the Imam, Allah may change your head into that of a donkey." [Note: Agreed upon, see Al-Lu `Lu' Wal Marjan, (No.247)]

    Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Whoever lifts or lowers his head before the Imam, has his forehead held by Satan". [Note: Reported by Imam Malik in AI-Muwatta', vol.1, p.92] 

    This is the practical instruction (Tarbiyyah) and continuous training which is held by obedience and discipline. Thus, congregational Prayer is a vivid image of what Islam craves for the group in actual life. It reflects being up right without curving, order without confusion, discipline without disturbance, unity without division and obedience where there is no sin. In addition, it gives priority to those who possess insight and reason, and to those who are knowledgeable giving every human being what he deserves.


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