Mapping Up the Right Way
The Prophet (Pbuh) says: “Whoever introduces into this matter of ours something that does not belong to it, it shall be rejected.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah).
Abdullah ibn Massoud reports: “The Prophet (Pbuh) drew a line in front of us and said, ‘This is the way leading to God’. He then drew several lines to the right and left. He said, ‘These are other ways, at the head of each one of them is a devil calling on people to take that way’. He then read the Qur’anic verse, ‘Know that this is the way leading to Me, a straight path. Follow it, then, and do not follow other ways, for they cause you to deviate from His way. All this He has enjoined upon you so that you may remain God-fearing.’” (6:153.) (Related by Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Al-Hakim, Al-Baghawi and Al-Tabarani).
Consistent, with No Deviation
This Hadith sums up what is required of every Muslim: to follow the way that God has outlined as the one leading to Him and to abandon any other way that is at variance with it. It is a straight way, consistent, with no deviation. It does not swerve to accommodate any deviant desire or to make any compromise. It defines the objective very clearly: to obey God’s orders and earn acceptance by Him. Hence, the Prophet gives the graphic picture of other ways moving away from it, with each having a devil trying to persuade people to take it. These devils may be personal desires, pleasures of the flesh, or unlawful gains, high position, or power. Each has its own attractions, and each presents a temptation that may be very difficult to resist.
Yet despite all temptation, it is not difficult to follow this straight way. It has been well mapped for us. The Qur’an defines it clearly and the Prophet gives us details at every point. Furthermore, no one can introduce into this guidance anything that is at variance with its premise, values or teachings. The Prophet says: “Whoever introduces into this matter of ours something that does not belong to it, it shall be rejected.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah). The Qur’an is guaranteed by God to be preserved intact, admitting no addition or deletion. It remains clear and easily understood by anyone who attains a good command of the Arabic language. The Prophet’s statements provide further clarification and details of how to fulfill what God has ordered and to avoid what He has forbidden. These statements have been verified and their authenticity established beyond any doubt. It is important, therefore, to follow the Prophet’s guidance and not to try to introduce into Islamic teachings or worship anything that does not belong to it.
Leads to Something Good
What is more is that when we follow the Prophet’s guidance, our approach must be one of willing acceptance, realizing that he only taught us what is good and beneficial. Indeed, when we examine anything the Prophet encouraged, urged or ordered, we find that it leads to something good, either for us personally or to others who are close to us in our families or to our wider community, or to the Muslim community in general, or to humanity at large. He only prohibited what brings no good to us or to others. Therefore, we should look at every thing the Prophet taught trying to understand what benefit it brings so as to maximize this benefit and, by contrast, to avoid the harm that results from what he has prohibited. This approach is clearly summed up in the Hadith reported by Abdullah ibn Amr, quoting the Prophet as saying: “None of you truly attains to faith until what he desires is consistent with what I have delivered.” (Related by Al-Baghawi).
In this authentic Hadith, the Prophet is highlighting the mark of true faith. This is a higher degree than merely believing in God and His Messenger. It refers to a state of mind when one’s desires and what a person really enjoys in life are in line with what God wants from us.
However, sometimes pressures are too strong and difficulties arise unexpectedly. It may be difficult to identify the proper way to follow in order to ensure that we remain on the right course, following the line the Prophet drew in front of his companions. People may claim that they are following his guidance, yet they pull in different directions. How to make sure that we are on the right lines?
Al-Irbadh ibn Sariyah, a companion of the Prophet, says: “The Prophet led us once performing the Fajr, or dawn, prayer. He then gave us a highly effective admonition so that many of us were tearful and we felt a shudder in our hearts. Someone said to him: ‘Messenger of God! This sounds like the admonition of someone bidding his audience farewell. Please outline for us what you recommend.’ He said: ‘I urge you to always remain God-fearing, and to listen to and obey your leaders, even when the leader is an Abyssinian slave. Anyone of you who will live long will witness much strife and conflict. Therefore, hold tight to my way and the way followed by the rightly-guided rulers. Hold on to it and never abandon it for anything. Steer away from any invented thing, for such inventions are deviations, and every deviation leads into error.’” (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Darimi and Al-Baghawi).
This is a definitive statement. What we need to explain, however, is that the reference to “invented things” applies only to matters of religion, not to man’s material life. Scientific advancement is always encouraged by Islam, which likes to see such advancement used for what improves the quality of human life. In matters of religion, only what the Prophet has given us is right. Whatever is at variance with it is wrong and unacceptable. The Prophet warns against conflict over religious principles and values.