The Sunnah: A Source of Civilization

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  • The Sunnah: A Source of Civilization

  • The Sunnah: A Source of Civilization

    The Prophet's Sunnah is not only the second source, right after the Qur'an, of which Islamic Legislation (Shari'ah) flows, but also the second source, again right after the Glorious Qur'an, of which both knowledge and civilization flow.

    Primarily, the Qur'an establishes the bases and principles of legislation, whereas, the Sunnah provides theoretical interpretation as well as example and practical application.

    The Prophet's guidance as exemplified in the Sunnah guides Muslims to three basic inseparable aspects of civilization, namely:

    1. Civilized Fiqh
    2. Civilized Conduct.
    3. Civilized Structure. 

    The Concept of Civilization:

    Before attempting to discuss these three aspects of civilization, we should first define the meaning of civilization :To begin with, does the Islamic concept of civilization offer a distinctive and unique interpretation that differs from the ones offered by other civilizations that preceded or followed it? Or do all civilizations stem from the same source regardless of country, time, sex, religion and philosophy in life?

    There is a general definition of civilization that is innate in the very word, namely, the overall manifestations of financial, scientific, artistic, literary, and social development in a society or in similar societies.

    The word "Civilization" in Arabic is the opposite of the word "Bedouinism" or, respectively, savageness and barbarism. Thus, urban life stands against Bedouin life and vice versa. People who wo live in cities, towns and villages are urban dwellers, whereas, people who lead Bedouin life are those who live in the deserts sheltered by tents. The Bedouins are notorious for their stiffness, harshness, hardness of heart and prevalence of ignorance and illiteracy among them.

    Consequently, Allah did not send down a prophet from among them. Instead, all the prophets He had sent were urban dwellers: of villages and towns. Allah said to His Prophet:

    "And We have not sent before you, any but from among the people of the towns We revealed to them." (12:109)

     Ibn Zaid and others said that the reason behind this preference for towns people, is that they are more knowledgeable and patient in comparison with the Bedouin people.

    Interpreters supported this opinion and regarded it as a fact that has no controversy. Therefore, the Bedouin are referred to as the hard-hearted people. Also, the hadith said: "He who belongs to the Bedoums is most likely harsh and hard of heart."

    Narrators said that it is disliked to imitate the Bedouin in his harshness and hardness of heart except in times of trial and affliction.

    Qatadah said: "Hitherto, we have never heard that Allah had sent down a prophet from among Bedouin." Moreover, it was reported that Al-Hasan said: "Allah has never sent down a prophet from among the Bedouin, women, or Jinns [Note: Al-Alusi, Ruh Al-ma'ani, vol.13, p. 68] As for Allah's Words said by Yusuf, to his father and brothers: "He brought you from the desert" (12:100)

    The scholar Al-Shihab Al-Khafaji comments, in his Hashiyya, [Note: Al-Shihab, Hashiyya. vol. 5, p.211] on Al-Baidawi's explanation saying:

    "Yusuf's family were not Bedouin, yet they used to graze their sheep in the desert and that was whereof they came at that time." Assuredly, Islam dawned to bring people out of the depths of darkness, with all its kinds and levels, to light, with all its kinds and levels. This includes bringing people out of the darkness of Bedouinism and savageness into the light of civilization and urbanism. The Qur'an states:

    "The Bedouin Arabs are the worst in unbelief and hypocrisy, and most fitted to be in ignorance of the command which Allah hath sent down to His Messenger: but Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise." (9:97)

    It is quite right that the Qur'an had excluded a group of them by saying:

           "But some of the Bedouin Arabs believe in Allah and the Last Day, and look on their payments as pious gifts bringing them nearer to Allah and obtaining the prayers of the Messenger." (9:99)

    But what is proved in the verse represents the general characteristic disposition. This factual generalization was cemented by the Prophet's (Peace be upon him) words: "He Who belongs to the Bedouin is most likely harsh and hard of heart" [Note: Reported by Abu Y'ala on the authority of Al-Bara'. Also by Ahmad on the authority of Abu Hurairah].

    As we know Islam is represented by both the Glorious Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunnah and we can see in them a persistent determination to transfer those people from the savageness of the Bedouin into a systematized urban civilization. Islam aimed at elevating them financially, scientifically, artistically, and socially as well as spiritually and morally. This aim required Islam to educate and purify them according to a wise and gradual instructive discipline that was to be carried out by the Prophet (Peace be upon him) himself.

    Among the targets of the Immigration (Hijrah) to Medina, which was prescribed upon the Arab tribes before the conquest of Mecca, was giving a chance for the Bedouin to learn and absorb the new Islamic culture which considers the congregational and their Prayers as essential rites. Moreover, it encourages them to attend instructive meetings, to embrace Islamic discipline which covered all aspects of life: eating, drinking, wearing clothes, walking, sitting down and all other major as well as minor aspects of life.

    If we make a comparison, we will see, on the one hand, the Bedouin man who was not in the least embarrassed to pass urine in one corner of the mosque regardless of the fact  that the Prophet and his Companions were sitting in it. Yet when people shouted at him, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) stopped them and excused his ignorance and Bedouinism ordering his Companions: "Wait until he finishes his urinating then spill a bucket of water over the place, for you have been sent to make things easy and not to make them difficult." [Note: Reported by Al-Bukhari in the book of Ablution, Abu Dawud (No. 380), Al-Tirmidhi (No.147), Al-Nasa'i (vol.1, pp.48,99). All on the authority of Abu Hurairah]

    On the other hand, we would see his fellow Muslim who was instructed, refined and purified by Islam as he approached Rustum, the leader of the Persian armies, and answered his inquiry about the identity of Muslims saying: "We were sent by Allah to bring out whom He wills from the worship of His slaves to His Worship alone, from the straitened world to the vast one, and from the injustice of religions to the justice of Islam "

    No wonder that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) has cursed any man who turns back to adopting the ways and disposition of Bedouin after his immigration. In the hadith, narrated by Ibn Mas'ud, the Prophet said:

    "All the following people are cursed by Muhammad (Peace be upon him) until the Day of Judgment, the man who lends money at interest (Riba), the man who accepts to pay it back at interest, the man who writes down this usurious agreement, the two witnesses of it at those times, the tattooer and the tattooed for the of beauty, the procrastinator of Zakah, whoever turns back to the Bedouin life after his immigration." [Note: Reported by lbn Khuzaimah in his Sahih (No.2250), Al-Hakim (vol. 1, pp.387, 388), Al-Baihaqi (vol.9, p.19), and `Abd Al-Raziq in his Musanaf with difference in words (No.15350). It is also reported by Ahmad (No.3881), Al-Nasa'i (vol.8, p.147), and Ibn Hibban (No .3252) on the authority of Al-Harith Al-A'war]

    The procrastinator of Zakah is the one who does not pay Zakah in its designated time. The apostate to Bedouin life, as Ibn Al-'Athir said, is the one who returns to desert and live with the Bedoums after his immigration. The man who returned to Bedouin life after immigration without excuse was considered an apostate.

    Moreover, Al-Nasa'i reported that:

    "Salamah Ibn Al-Akwa' (May Allah be pleased with him) approached Al-Hajaj who shouted at him, "You have turned on your heels! and mentioned words that signify, "And you went back to live in the desert." Salamah denied saying: "No, but Allah's Prophet (Peace be upon him)  allowed me to stay with the Bedouin in the desert." [Note: Reported by Al-Nasa'i, vol. 8, pp. 151, 152]

    Abu Hurairah reported in a hadith that:

    "The great sins are disbelief in Allah, killing a fellow man without a just cause, devouring usury, eating up the property of orphans unjustly, turning one's back to the disbelievers in a battlefield at the time of fighting, accusing chaste women, and to go back to the Bedouin after one's immigration." [Note: Al-Haitharni said: It is reported by Al-Bazar, vol.1, p.103]

    Sahl Ibn Abi Hathamah narrated after his father that he heard the Prophet (Peace be upon ) saying:

    "Avoid the great seven sins. When the Prophet saw that the people kept silent, he went on: "Won't you ask me about them? They are: to associate partners in worship with Allah and to turn band live in the desert with Bedouin after the immigration etc." [Note: Al-Haithami said: It is reported by Al-Tabarani in Al-Kabir, vol.1, p.103]

    Undoubtedly, Islam was a message of civilization. Its target was to elevate the life of man and set him free from the bonds of Bedouinism to the freedom of civilization. The reader will perceive this fact when we tackle the issue of Civilized Structure that Islam has brought along.

    It is necessary to emphasize that the civilization that Islam wants to build is unlike any other civilizations which focus on the materialistic aspects of life as well as the bodily and sensuous side of man. Moreover, these civilizations concentrated on the readily and immediate pleasures of life, making worldly affairs their primary concern and the destination of their knowledge, and left no room for Allah or the Hereafter in their philosophy or in their cultural and educational system.

    Contrary to them, the Civilization of Islam has united man to Allah and earth to heaven. It has dedicated life to preparation for Hereafter. It has mingled spirit with matter, has struck a balance between the mind and the heart, has wedded science to faith and has cherished ethical sublimity as much as materialistic development.

    It is justifiable to describe it as a spiritual, materialistic civilization. It is both idealistic and real, holy and human, ethical and populational, and individualistic as well as general. Truly, it is the civilization of balance and moderation which was the basis on which a just and distinguished Nation. Almighty Allah described it saying: "And so We have appointed you as a just and distinguished Nation." (2:143) 

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