Before we look at the rights that Rasoolullahﷺ has on us for which we will be held accountable, let us see who Muhammadﷺ was. Let me introduce you to our Nabi, whose Shafa’at we rely on and beg Allahﷻ for to save us on the Day of Judgment. As mentioned earlier, Allahﷻ created an entire generation of people who loved him and recorded everything about him with the intention of emulating him and preserving and communicating the memory to generations unborn. It is for that reason that we have the most detailed account of even small details of Rasoolullahﷺ’s appearance and habits which is not the case with anyone else in the world including our own close family.
Let me mention perhaps the most beautiful description of Rasoolullahﷺ’s appearance that was recorded by Umm Ma’abad (RA), when Rasoolullahﷺ stopped in her camp on the way to Madina when he was making Hijra.
Umm Ma’abad, ‘Aatikah bint Khalid (RA)
Her camp was in Qudayd. Abu Bakr (R), ‘Amr ibn Fuhayrah (R), a freed slave of Abu Bakr and their guide, ‘Abdullah ibn Urayqat (who was then a polytheist) along with Rasoolullahﷺ, stopped at the camp of Umm Ma’abad (RA). She was a generous woman, known to feed and water travelers who passed by her camp. When Rasoolullahﷺ and her companions stopped there, Abu Bakr (R) asked her if she had any food which they could buy from her. She said, ‘If I had anything, you would not need to buy it. But there is nothing.’ Rasoolullahﷺ noticed a weak, sickly-looking goat in one corner of the camp, sheltering in some shade. He asked Umm Ma’abad (RA) if that goat had milk. She replied, ‘If it had milk and was strong, she would not be here. She would have gone with the flock that my husband has taken to graze.’ Rasoolullahﷺ asked her if she would allow him to milk the goat. Umm Ma’abad (RA) agreed and told him that he was welcome to do so but that the goat was dry and had no milk. Rasoolullahﷺ asked for a container which was produced. He mentioned the name of Allahﷻ and passed his hand over the goat’s udder which suddenly filled up with milk and started to milk her.
Rasoolullahﷺ milked the goat until the container was filled. Then he gave it to Umm Ma’abad (RA) who drank her fill. She passed it to Abu Bakr (R), then Amr bin Fuhayra (R) then Abdullah bin Uraiqat drank. Rasoolullahﷺ drank last and said, ‘The cup bearer drinks last.’ Then he milked the goat again and everyone drank again. Then he milked the goat a third time and filled the container with milk and left it with Umm Ma’abad (RA). Then they all left her camp and continued their journey.
Umm Ma’abad (RA)’s husband, Aktham ibn Abi al-Jawn al-Khuza’i (R) was away at the time grazing their flock of sheep and goats. When he returned in the evening, he saw the bowl of milk and asked where it had come from. Umm Ma’abad (RA) narrated the story about her visitors. He asked her to describe Muhammadﷺ and this is what she said. Her eloquence has no parallel. Her words have been the subject of many a thesis in the Arabic language. And all that she was, was an unlettered Baddu lady who had seen Rasoolullahﷺ only once. Such was the impact of that meeting, and such were the Sahaba and Sahabiyaat of Rasoolullahﷺ. She said:
“I saw a man who is distinctly handsome and of a beautiful countenance. He is well-built, neither blemished by a big belly nor disfigured by an unusually small head. The pupils of his eyes are very dark, his eyelashes are very long and the area around the pupils is extremely white. His eyebrows are perfectly close. He has very dark hair, a rather long neck, and a thick beard. When he remains silent, he is ever contemplative and when he speaks, eminence and splendor exhibit in his words. His words are like sliding stringed pearls. He is a gifted orator whose words are neither too few nor too many. He has the clearest wand and the most audible voice as he speaks. When you look at him from afar, he is the most handsome of all people, and when you move closer to him, he is the most pleasant of them. You will never be tired of looking at him. He is like a branch between two branches. He is the most handsome of the three and the most important of them. He has companions who honor him; when he speaks, they listen to his words and when he commands, they hasten to carry out his order. They serve and gather around him. He neither frowns or nags.”
May Allahﷻ reward Umm Ma’abad (RA) and increase her Darajaat, what a beautiful description which today, we read, 1400 years later and we see Rasoolullahﷺ through her eyes. Her husband, Aktham ibn Abi al-Jawn al-Khuza’i (R) was from a tribe who were traditional allies of Abdul Muttalib. He said to his wife, ‘By Allahﷻ, if I meet him, I will follow him.’ Later they both went to Madina and accepted Islam and are among the greatest of the Sahaba.
As I mentioned, the Sahaba described all aspects of Rasoolullahﷺ’s appearance, habits, likes, dislikes, preferences, ways, gestures, and facial expressions. They described the luminous glow of his blessed countenance, the color of his eyes, his hair, his beard. They described the order in which he wore his shoes and how he took them off. They described how he clipped his nails. They described even the soles of his blessed feet. They recorded what foods he liked and which he didn’t like but didn’t object if others ate them. They described his facial expressions when he was happy and how many teeth were visible when he smiled. I can go on, but I think I have made my point.
My point is that when these people recorded everything about their beloved leader, what chance is there that they didn’t record the most critical thing about him which are his teachings? What chance that the people who recorded the words of Revelation, the Qur’an, didn’t record their explanation? What chance that when they asked questions related to the application of Islam in their lives, they wouldn’t record both the question and answer? The fact is that they recorded all these things. They not only did that, but they would read out what they had written to Rasoolullahﷺ and ask him to confirm what they had recorded.
This was then preserved in their private collections. This is what they taught others, new to Islam, by the leave of and on the instruction of Rasoolullahﷺ. This was their Islamic Syllabus. They didn’t teach intricacies of Arabic grammar and the number of times a particular word appeared in the Qur’an. They taught how Islam was to be applied in our lives. They lived Islam and they preached living Islam. They had seen the power of being connected to Allahﷻ by following the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ and that is what they taught. People like Abu Hurairah (R) had a room full of his notes of Rasoolullahﷺ’s teachings.
The second thing to consider is the statement of Allahﷻ when He defined the role of Rasoolullahﷺ and stated:
لَقَدْ مَنَّ اللّهُ عَلَى الْمُؤمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولاً مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُواْ مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلالٍ مُّبِينٍ
A’al Imraan 3: 164. Indeed Allah conferred a great favor on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger (Muhammadﷺ) from among themselves, reciting unto them His Ayaat (the Qur’an), and purifying them (external & internal), and teaching them the Book (the Qur’an) and Al-Hikmah [the wisdom and the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ], while before that they had been in manifest error.
Allahﷻ clearly defined the role of Rasoolullahﷺ as being a combination of four separate things, each being critical to the ultimate objective which was to enable people to practice and live by Islam.
Islam is a way of life, which was the way of Muhammadﷺ. That is what we know as the Sunnah. The Sunnah is the Qur’an, in practice. It is the practical demonstration of Tafsir of the Qur’an. However, since we have become used to dealing with words alone and getting lost in them without being concerned about their practice, we don’t find anything illogical about ignoring the actions that the Words of Allahﷻ demand.
Allahﷻ said about preserving the Qur’an:
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ
Al-Hijr 15: 9. Verily We: It is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (the Qur’an) and surely, We will guard it (from corruption).
Ask yourself that if Allahﷻ defined the role of Rasoolullahﷺ as being to recite the Ayaat of Allahﷻ, prepare people to receive them by purification, explain the meaning and implications of those Ayaat and then demonstrate how they are to be lived by; how is it possible that Heﷻ, when it came to preserving them, would preserve only the recitation and nothing else. So, in effect, those who reject Ahadith are claiming that it is sufficient to preserve the Ayah “Establish Salah”, but not the method of Salah and all the rules relating to it. So also, for everything else. Pay Zakat but not how much, on what, who is liable and to whom it must be paid. Fast in Ramadan but not the meaning of fasting, what invalidates it, what to do if it is invalidated, what to do if you miss it and so on. Make Haj but not when, where, or how. Does this make sense? I will leave you to decide.
Then, there is the hard evidence of the written records that the Sahaba, men, and women, had of the teachings of Rasoolullahﷺ. No person of integrity can deny either their existence or that they had been written with the same dedication and Taqwa as was the Qur’an. That is why we consider all the Sahaba as totally reliable (Tsiqa). It is necessary to study Usool-ul-Hadith before you approach Hadith to understand how Ahadith were preserved and authenticated. The preservation of Ahadith is a wonder of scholarly effort, guided by love of Rasoolullahﷺ and Taqwa of Allahﷻ which is unparalleled in the history of mankind. It is something for us, Muslims, to be justly proud of, that we had scholars who dedicated their entire lives to the recording and preservation of our religion so that it came to us, in its pure form, free from corruption and alteration.
An entire new body of research-based knowledge was born, called Al-Ilm-ul-Asma-ur-Rijaal (Knowledge of the names of the people) which recorded the names, identification and reputation of every person who quoted a Hadith. This enormous effort, which runs into hundreds of thousands of personal histories, was made to ensure that the Ahadith admitted as being correct and authentic had been transmitted by people who were totally reliable. Anyone not coming up to the exacting standard was identified and his statement was either rejected outright or was flagged to show that it had some weakness. There is no other body of knowledge in the history of scholarship that even comes close to the rigor with which Ahadith were collected and authenticated.
Finally, one simple logical question to those Orientalists and their blind followers who claim that Ahadith were not recorded and only ‘collected’ 300 years after Rasoolullahﷺ passed away and so can’t be relied upon. Let us ignore the fact that they ignore the scholarship, integrity, Taqwa and enormous labor of love of the great scholars of Islam. Let us ask one simple question. If Ahadith were not recorded, how could they have been collected? After all, even these people don’t claim that all Ahadith are fabricated.
Finally, one of the most conclusive proofs of the fact that the Sahaba and Sahabiyaat not only recorded Ahadith but taught them, is the wonderful work of Shaikh Akram Nadwi, Al-Muhaddithaat. This is a collection of short biographies of over 9000 women scholars of Hadith, starting from the Sahabiyaat of Rasoolullahﷺ like Ayesha Siddiqa (RA), Umm Darda (RA) and others. This book is in Arabic, in 40 volumes. Its introduction has been translated into English and is available on Amazon. Typical documents (like class registers and ijazahs from women authorizing men to teach) and the glowing testimonies about their women teachers from the most revered ulema are cited in detail. An overview chapter, with accompanying maps, traces the spread of centers of hadith learning for women.
My brothers and sisters, we love Rasoolullahﷺ. We obey, follow, and emulate Rasoolullahﷺ. Allahﷻ told us the reward of that:
مَّن يُطِعِ ٱلرَّسُولَ فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ ٱللَّهَ وَمَن تَوَلَّىٰ فَمَآ أَرْسَلْنَـٰكَ عَلَيْهِمْ حَفِيظًا
Nisa 4: 80 He who obeys the Messenger (Muhammadﷺ ), has indeed obeyed Allah, but he who turns away, then we have not sent you as a watcher over them.
قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ ٱللَّهَ فَٱتَّبِعُونِى يُحْبِبْكُمُ ٱللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَٱللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
A’al Imraan 3: 31 Say (O Muhammadﷺ): If you (really) love Allah then follow (emulate) me. Allah will love you and forgive your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.