Explanation of the Book of Sunnah, Sunan Ibn Mājah
Chapter 1: ‘Following the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam).’ Based on the explanation of the noble Scholar, the Sheikh, ʿAbdul Muhsin al-ʿAbbād (may Allah preserve him).
Hadeeth Number 2
The author, ibn Mājah (rahimahullah) said:
Muhammad bin Sabāh narrated to us, that Jareer informed us, from al-Aʿmash from Abu Sāleh from Abu Hurairah (radiyallāhu ʿanhu) who said that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) said:
ذروني ما تركتكم, فإنما هلك من كان قبلكم بسؤالهم واختلافهم على أنبيائهم, فإذا أمرتكم بشيء, فخذوا منه ما استطعتم, وإذا نهيتكم عن شيء, فانتهوا
“Leave me upon what I have left you, for indeed, those who came before you were destroyed for their excessive questions and differing with their prophets. So, if I command you with something, do as much of it as you are able, and if I forbid you with something, then avoid it [altogether].”
[Reported by Bukhāri, Muslim, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasā’i and Imām Ahmad]
This Hadeeth contains the restriction we mentioned earlier in the explanation of hadeeth number 1 ―a person is fully able to avoid and leave the prohibitions. However, he may not be able to carry out a command if it is difficult for him. So, a person is ordered to leave and abandon the prohibitions absolutely―but as for the commandments, then he is ordered to do that as much as he is able in accordance with his ability and his strength, which is why Allah the Most High said:
لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا
“Allah does not burden a soul beyond what it can bear.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:286).
Therefore, this second Hadeeth of Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) restricts the first Hadeeth (number 1), which is general and unrestricted.
If, for example, it is said to you, ‘Lift this rock,’ then either you will be able to lift it or not be able to lift it. However, if it is said, ‘Do not enter through that door,’ then you will simply not enter because that involves leaving the action which everyone can do!
As for the Prophet’s (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) saying, ‘Leave me as I have left you,’ then the intent behind it is that if the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) commands the people with something or forbids them from something, then they are required to submit and yield to that. They should not ask questions that may lead to harmful consequences or difficulties, such as asking about an affair when it is still being revealed because it may be made obligatory upon them, which results in difficulty and hardship upon them. This is explained more clearly in what is reported in some narrations that the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “O people! Allah has made Hajj obligatory upon you, so perform it.” A man then asked, ‘Is it every year, O Messenger of Allah?’ So the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) remained silent until the man asked him three times, and then he (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “If I was to say yes then it would become an obligation, and you would not be able to do it.‘ (Muslim) So, the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) was displeased with this question because it was a question that could not be ignored, and there would be hardship in performing Hajj every year. Who is it that can perform Hajj every year? Can people possibly perform Hajj and leave their homes every year?
Then he said: “Leave me upon what I have left you, for indeed those who came before you were destroyed due to their excessive questioning and their differing with their prophets.” This is like what occurred with Bani Isrā’eel (the Children of Israel) concerning the cow which they were commanded to slaughter―so, they over-burdened themselves and delved too deeply, until they had to sacrifice a cow that had certain, specific qualities whereas if they had not asked too many questions, they could have slaughtered any cow and it would have been sufficient. However, they exceeded the bounds and became over-burdensome in questioning Moosā (ʿalaihis-salām) and this led them to be treated with the same level of burden in return.
This incident is mentioned in the Qur’ān in Surah al-Baqarah (67 -71):
وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تَذْبَحُوا بَقَرَةً ۖ قَالُوا أَتَتَّخِذُنَا هُزُوًا ۖ قَالَ أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ . قَالُوا ادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُبَيِّن لَّنَا مَا هِيَ ۚ قَالَ إِنَّهُ يَقُولُ إِنَّهَا بَقَرَةٌ لَّا فَارِضٌ وَلَا بِكْرٌ عَوَانٌ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ ۖ فَافْعَلُوا مَا تُؤْمَرُونَ . قَالُوا ادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُبَيِّن لَّنَا مَا لَوْنُهَا ۚ قَالَ إِنَّهُ يَقُولُ إِنَّهَا بَقَرَةٌ صَفْرَاءُ فَاقِعٌ لَّوْنُهَا تَسُرُّ النَّاظِرِينَ قَالُوا ادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُبَيِّن لَّنَا مَا هِيَ إِنَّ الْبَقَرَ تَشَابَهَ عَلَيْنَا وَإِنَّا إِن شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَمُهْتَدُونَ . قَالَ إِنَّهُ يَقُولُ إِنَّهَا بَقَرَةٌ لَّا ذَلُولٌ تُثِيرُ الْأَرْضَ وَلَا تَسْقِي الْحَرْثَ مُسَلَّمَةٌ لَّا شِيَةَ فِيهَا ۚ قَالُوا الْآنَ جِئْتَ بِالْحَقِّ ۚ فَذَبَحُوهَا وَمَا كَادُوا يَفْعَلُونَ
“And remember when Moosā said to his people, ‘Verily Allah commands you that you slaughter a cow.’ They said, ‘Do you make fun of us?’ He said, ‘I seek refuge in Allah from being amongst the ignorant ones.’ They said, ‘Call upon your Lord for us, to make plain to us what it is.’ He said, ‘He says, verily it is a cow neither too old nor too young but (it is) between the two conditions, so do what you are commanded.’ They said, ‘Call upon your Lord for us to make plain to us its colour.’ He said, ‘He says, ‘It is a yellow cow, bright in its colour, pleasing to the beholders.’ They said, ‘Call upon your Lord for us to make plain to us what it is, verily to us all cows are alike, and surely, if Allah wills, we will be guided.’ He (Musa) said, ‘He says, ‘It is a cow neither trained to till the soil nor water the fields, sound, having no other colour except bright yellow.’ They said, ‘Now you have brought the truth.’ So, they slaughtered it even though they almost did not do it.”
The scholars of tafsir (mufassireen) explained the story behind the revelation of these ayāt. Allah the Most High commanded some of the Bani Isrā’eel to slaughter a cow after a believer was murdered. Once they had slaughtered it they would be able to ascertain the identity of the murderer, as is made clear in the following verses:
وَإِذْ قَتَلْتُمْ نَفْسًا فَادَّارَأْتُمْ فِيهَا ۖ وَاللَّهُ مُخْرِجٌ مَّا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ . فَقُلْنَا اضْرِبُوهُ بِبَعْضِهَا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُحْيِي اللَّهُ الْمَوْتَىٰ وَيُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
“And (remember) when you killed a man and fell into dispute among yourselves as to the crime, but Allah brought forth that which you were hiding. So, we said, ‘Strike him (the dead man) with a piece of it (the cow).’ Thus, Allah brings the dead to life and shows you His signs/proofs so that you may understand.”
Initially, the command was to slaughter any cow, with no restrictions, but as the people kept asking Moosa (ʿalaihis-salām) excessive questions about how the cow should be, they made matters more difficult for themselves, and they ended up having to slaughter a very particular type of cow such that it was very difficult for them to find it.
Eventually, when they slaughtered the cow, they struck the dead man with a part of it, and he came back to life and identified his killer, and then died again in the very same place.
Some of the scholars of tafseer have mentioned that every time the type of cow became more and more particular due to their excessive questioning―it ended up that there was only one cattle herder among Bani Isrā’eel who had that type of cow, and there was only one like it. The owner of the cow inflated its price so much that it became difficult for them to purchase it, but if they had obeyed Allah initially without asking so many questions, it would not have been made so difficult for them. This is why Allah the Most High says at the end of ayah 71, ‘…even though they almost did not do it.’
Therefore, when Allah commands you with something, then do it, and do not overburden yourself with excessive questions, and this is why the prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said that which is mentioned in the Hadeeth of the chapter, ‘Leave me as I have left you.’
The Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) forbade the Muslims from excessive questioning and informing us that previous nations were destroyed due to this overburdening―and he (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) said, ‘Whatever I have commanded you with, do of it as much as you can, and if I prohibit you from something, stay away from it.’ So, when he (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) commanded the Muslims with Hajj, and said, ‘Indeed Allah has prescribed Hajj for you, so perform it.’ Therefore, it is an obligation to fulfil the right once, and if it is done more than once, then it is a voluntary, rewardable act.
The Men in the Chain of Narration (for the first two hadeeths)
Abu Bakr ibn Abee Shaybah: he is ʿAbdullah bin Muhammad bin Ibrāheem, he is thiqah (trustworthy and reliable), and all of the six books narrate from him, except at-Tirmidhi.
Benefit 1: Imām Muslim has many narrations of Abu Bakr ibn Abee Shaybah in his Saheeh, and he did not narrate from any sheikh as he narrated from Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah, such that he narrated more than 1,500 ahādeeth from him. The one who reads the Saheeh of Imām Muslim will see this name appear repeatedly.
Benefit 2: The first narrator whom each of the authors of the six books of Hadeeth narrated from in their compilations:
Imāms Muslim and Ibn Mājah: Abu Bakr ibn Abee Shaybah. The first Hadeeth in the introduction of Imām Muslim’s Saheeh is, ‘Whoever narrates from me a Hadeeth whilst he is aware that it is a lie, then he is one of the liars,’ and it was narrated from Ibn Abee Shaybah.
Imām al-Bukhāri: ʿAbdullah bin az-Zubayr al-Makki al-Humaydi Abu Bakr al-Qurashi―a preserver and memoriser (hāfidh) in the arena of Hadeeth, a jurist, one of the great Imāms, a Sheikh of Imām al-Bukhāri. He was the head of the students) of Sufyān ibn ʿUyaynah, and he died in 219 H.
Imāms at-Tirmidhi and an-Nasā’i: Qutaybah bin Saʿeed bin Jameel ath-Thaqafi Abu Rajā al-Baghlāni- an ascription to Baghlān; a village in Khurasān. He is trustworthy, reliable and dependable, and all of the six books narrate from him.
Abu Dāwud: ʿAbdullah bin Maslamah al-Qaʿnabi Abu ʿAbdir-Rahmān al-Hārathi. He was trustworthy, a worshipper and from the outstanding companions/students of Imām Mālik (died 1709 H), and all of the six books narrate from him except Ibn Mājah.
Shareek: He is ibn ʿAbdillah an-Nakhaʿee al-Koofi, he was sudooq (truthful) but mixed the narrations up. Bukhāri narrates from him in taʿleeq form (i.e., with incomplete chains of narration), and Muslim and the authors of the Sunan, i.e., Abu Dāwud, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasā’i and ibn Mājah also narrate from him.
Shareek’s mixing up of narrations does not harm this first Hadeeth (in Kitāb as-Sunnah of Ibn Mājah) because it is followed up by Jareer bin ʿAbdil-Hameed, as is seen in the chain of narration of the second Hadeeth.
Al-Aʿmash: He is Sulaymān bin Mihrān al-Kāhili al-Koofi, well known as al-Aʿmash: trustworthy and reliable (thiqah), and all the six books of Hadeeth narrate from him.
Abu Sālih: He is Dhakwān as-Sammān, his name is Dhakwān and his nickname is as-Sammān. He is well known by his kunya, Abu Sālih. He is trustworthy (thiqah), and all the six books of Hadeeth narrate from him.
Abu Hurairah: the companion of Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam), may Allah be pleased with him. And there is absolutely no question regarding his (or any of the Companions) reliability and trustworthiness. He was the most prolific narrator of the ahādeeth of Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) without exception. He narrated a total of 5,374 ahadeeth.
Additional narrators of the second Hadeeth:
Muhammad ibn as-Sabbāh: he is al-Jarjarā’ee. He is truthful (sudooq)―Abu Dāwud and Ibn Mājah narrate from him.
Jareer: he is Ibn ʿAbdil-Hameed ad-Dabbee al-Koofee. He is trustworthy (thiqah), and all of the six books of Hadeeth narrate from him.
والحمد لله رب العالمين وصلى الله على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين
سبحانك اللهم وبحمدك أشهد أن لا إله إلا أنت، أستغفرك وأتوب إليك
Abu Khadeejah Abdul-Wāhid.
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