Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Zil-Hijjah / Muharram 1423 H
March 2003
Volume 16-03 No : 195
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Hadith


Prophet's (Pbuh) Emphasis on Greeting Rulers!


Prophet's (Pbuh) Emphasis on Greeting Rulers!



Umar ibn Abd Al-Aziz asked Abu Bakr ibn Sulayman, (a learned scholar of the tabieen generation): "Why did Abu Bakr start his letters with the phrase, 'From Abu Bakr, the successor of God's messenger,' and why Umar started his with, 'From Umar, Abu Bakr's successor'? Who was the first to use the title, Ameer Al-Mu'mineen?"

Commentary by Adil Salahi

A Hadith may address a particular point or issue, but may also have a secondary point which is important in its own right, or it may even have several secondary points. This is the main reason why a Hadith may be cited several times in the same collection of Hadiths. Al-Bukhari in particular resorts to this method both in his Sahih and in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad. However, when Al-Bukhari enters a Hadith more than once, he is keen to give different emphasis or some additional information each time. If the Hadith has different authentic versions, he includes each one under the most relevant heading.

For example, some versions are bound to be more detailed than others. Therefore, he enters the shorter one under the heading that fits with the main point of the Hadith, and he enters the more detailed one under a heading suitable to the added information it gives. If he has one text reported by two different chains of transmitters, he treats it as two different Hadiths, entering it under separate suitable headings, but using a different chain of transmission each time.

However, a Hadith may have only one version, but it covers several points. Hence, it could be entered under several headings. The following Hadith, for example, is entered by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad under the heading: “Greeting rulers”, but it gives us much more information than that.

Umar ibn Abd Al-Aziz asked Abu Bakr ibn Sulayman, (a learned scholar of the tabieen generation): “Why did Abu Bakr start his letters with the phrase, ‘From Abu Bakr, the successor of God’s messenger,’ and why Umar started his with, ‘From Umar, Abu Bakr’s successor’? Who was the first to use the title, Ameer Al-Mu’mineen?”

He answered: My grandmother, Al-Shifa’, told me that Umar wrote to his governor in Iraq to send him two strong men of high caliber to give him information about Iraq and its people. The governor sent to him Labeed ibn Rabeeah and Adiy ibn Hatim. When they arrived in Madinah, they placed their camels outside the mosque and entered the mosque where they saw Amr ibn Al-Aas. They said to him: ‘Amr, request permission for us to see Ameer Al-Mu’mineen, Umar.’ Amr immediately entered Umar’s room and said: ‘Assalam alaikum Ameer Al-Mu’mineen.’ Umar said: ‘What has given you, Ibn Al-Aas, the idea to address me with this name? You better quit it?’ He said: ‘Labeed ibn Rabeeah and Adiy ibn Hatim have just arrived and said to me: Request permission for us to see Ameer Al-Mu’mineen.’ I said: ‘You have certainly got the right title for him: he is the ruler (i.e. Ameer) and we are the believers, (i.e. Al-Mu’mineen)’.” The title was used ever since.

This Hadith is self-explanatory. However, we may point out that neither of the first two Caliphs sought any of the titles that magnify the role of ruler. Both used the word, Khaleefah, or Caliph, which means “successor”, and each used it in its linguistic sense.

Abu Bakr described himself as successor to God’s messenger in his position as a ruler, and Umar as Abu Bakr’s successor. However, the term was felt to be unsuitable as the succession would continue. May be some of the Prophet’s companions were thinking on these lines, and considering what title should be given to the ruler of the Muslim state. Hence, Amr ibn Al-Aas’ reaction to the title used by the two men: Ameer Al-Mu’mineen. Ameer means prince, commander or ruler. A person in that post is honoured to be the head of a community of believers.

We may refer briefly to the people mentioned in this Hadith, six of whom were companions of the Prophet. The three best known ones are Abu Bakr, Umar and Amr. The reporter of the Hadith is quoting his grandmother, Al-Shifa’ bint Abdullah ibn Abd Shams. She belonged to the Adiy clan of the Quraysh, which was Umar’s own clan. She embraced Islam in its early days in Makkah, and migrated with her son Sulayman to Madinah when the Muslims were instructed by the Prophet to leave Makkah. She was a very wise and respectable woman. The Prophet used to visit her at home, and he would at times have his afternoon nap at her place. Therefore, she had a special mattress for him to use. Umar appointed her as controller of the marketplace in Madinah, which was a highly significant position. He also assigned some aspects of supervision in the market to her son, Sulayman, who was also a wise man whom Umar often asked for advice.

Prior to Islam, Labeed ibn Rabeeah was a fine and renowned poet. In fact, he was one of seven poets who acquired greater fame than the rest, when they placed their masterpieces on the walls of the Kaabah in pre-Islamic days. He then embraced Islam, but did not write much poetry in his Islamic days, because he devoted himself to the Qur’an. He was a strong man and a good fighter. When this event took place, he must have been around or over 60 years of age, but he lived to a very old age. It is said that when he died, during or after Mu’awiyah’s reign, he was 120.

Adiy ibn Hatim is the son of the man who is known in Arabian history as the most generous and hospitable. This in a land that highly valued generosity and hospitality among the main virtues honourable people should have. In his pre-Islamic days, Adiy was a Christian and the chief of his tribe, the Tayy. He tried hard not to meet the Prophet or listen to his message. However, his sister was taken captive by the Muslims, and the Prophet was very kind to her. When a group of her people arrived in Madinah, he sent her with them so that she could go back safely to her people. She advised her brother to go and see the Prophet, which he did and recognised him as God’s last messenger. He then became one of the most committed among the Prophet’s companions. He fought in many battles during the reigns of Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman, and also fought alongside Ali in his main battles of Siffeen and Al-Nahrawan. He too lived to a very old age, having lived more than 60 years after becoming a Muslim. Although he was the chief of his people, he was a modest man. When he became very old and could not sit comfortably on the floor, he requested his people’s permission to use a chair. He feared that if he did not explain, they might have thought that he wanted to be seen above them. The thought was far from his mind.

When we look at this Hadith, we have a glimpse of life in the early Islamic period. Umar ibn Abd Al-Aziz asks a scholar about the title with which he is addressed as the ruler of the Muslim world. The scholar quotes his grandmother, a companion of the Prophet. On the other hand, Amr uses the title he feels very suitable to the Muslim ruler, but credits it to the ones who were the first to use it. Umar, the Caliph, wants to know about the people of the area that has come under his rule. His governor meets his request, sending him two of the wisest and most intelligent people to give him a clear picture.

The final point to add concerning this Hadith is that although Umar ibn Al-Khattab was the first ruler to be addressed as Ameer Al-Mu’mineen, which became a title used by kings and princes up to the present time, the title was used before him. The first one to be addressed by it was Abdullah ibn Jahsh, a companion of the Prophet who led an expedition of eight people, going deep into the enemy’s area a couple of months before the Battle of Badr. He was to fall a martyr in the Battle of Uhud a year later.

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