Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary
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Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary

A Perfect Code of Manners and Morality

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Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary

A Perfect Code of Manners and Morality

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About This Book

A complete, newly translated edition of al-Adab al-Mufrad, the most famous collection of Prophetic traditions on manners and morals, with a pioneering commentary by Adil Salahi.

Al-Adab al-Mufrad, an anthology of 1329 hadiths, is a treasured work in Muslim history by one of its most respected scholars, Imam Bukhari. In preparing this selection of hadiths Imam Bukhari aimed to set out a model to follow for successful relations within the Muslim community as well as interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims based on the Prophetic example, and that of Muhammad's closest companions. All of the hadiths are directly related to the standards of manners and morality Islam wants to prevail, and Muslims throughout the world have been guided by it since its preparation over a millennium ago. Famed for the reliability and strength of his work, Imam Bukhari exclusively used hadith that do not go below the grade of "Good", or "Hasan", and since they are focused on manners and moral values, they are upheld by scholars. What distinguishes the present work is that it includes a contemporary commentary, clearly emphasising the relevance of the Prophet's teachings in our modern and complex societies. This pioneering addition marks it out as perhaps the first English work commenting on and explaining a full anthology of hadiths. The translator and author of the commentaries, Adil Salahi, has a long history of research in the Seerah and Hadith, and he wrote extensively on both. This work puts together the best of his writings on the Prophet's teachings in the area of morality and private and social manners.

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Dutifulness to Parents
ALL PEOPLE AGREE that to be kind and dutiful to one’s parents is the proper attitude. All societies, including those where family ties have become very loose, agree that sons and daughters must always be kind to their parents. Parents sacrifice a great deal to bring up their children. They take pains to provide the happiest life they can for them. Yet, it cannot be denied that not all parents provide their children with the same standards of care and love. Some children are more fortunate than others in this respect. In most cases, however, parents do care for their children and look after them well. In doing so, they have to work hard and sacrifice much of their time, effort, money as well as physical and mental rest.
From time to time we hear about parents who are cruel to their children. Cases are reported of parents who kill their children, or cause them to die. These cases are exceptions that do not invalidate the rule. When we examine any such scenario, we find that the perpetrators are far from normal people. The healthier and more virtuous a society is, the less frequent and more far between such cases of perversion become. The closer a society moves towards Islamic life, the more likely such instances disappear and become largely non-existent.
Because parents sacrifice much to bring up their children, all religions tend to emphasise the virtue of kindness to parents. Islam makes such kindness to parents a personal duty of every son and daughter, allowing no exception whatsoever. A number of Qur’anic verses make dutifulness to parents a universal requirement, second only to believing in God’s oneness. God says in the Qur’an: ‘Say: Come, let me tell you what your Lord has forbidden to you: Do not associate partners with Him; [do not offend against but, rather,] be kind to your parents; do not kill your children because of your poverty – We provide for you and for them; do not commit any shameful deed, whether open or secret; do not take any human being’s life – which God has made sacred, except in the course of justice. This He has enjoined upon you so that you may use your reason’. (6: 151)
We also have a large number of ḥadīths that encourage in all manners of emphasis treating parents with a devoted kindness, and which further stress the importance of overlooking their faults. Al-Bukhari opens this book with a section on dutifulness to parents, showing it to be the most important of Islamic moral values. Each section comprises a number of chapters, with a small number of ḥadīths in each and which is given a significant heading. The first chapter in this section is headed with a Qur’anic verse that says: ‘We have enjoined man to be kind to his parents’. (29: 8)
1. ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd reports: I asked God’s Messenger: ‘Which action does God love best?’ He answered: ‘Prayer at its proper time’. I asked: ‘What comes next?’ He said: ‘Dutifulness to parents’. I asked: ‘What comes next?’ He said: ‘Next comes jihad for God’s cause’.
Ibn Masʿūd adds: ‘He told me of these, but he would have added more, had I asked him to do so’.7
Many people may be surprised at this order of priority. Were we to ask people where they would place jihad, i.e. striving for God’s cause, in the list of deeds earning great reward from God, most of them would give it first priority. Jihad requires a person to believe that Islam is the religion of the truth, accept it, hold firmly to it and present it to others. In doing so, a person may have to sacrifice his wealth and his life. Jihad means willingly accepting such risks. Although most people understand jihad to mean fighting the enemies of Islam so that it may achieve supremacy over all other religions, creeds and philosophies, its significance is much wider than its erroneous translation as ‘holy war’. Indeed, there is no such concept as a ‘holy war’ in Islam. War is either legitimate, when it is for a just cause, or else it is unacceptable aggression. Every action that serves the dual purpose of establishing Islam firmly in its own land and delivering its message to others so that they can make their own choice about it is part of jihad.
However, the Prophet places as our first priority a simple act of worship; this also falls within the ambit of one’s personal relationship with God. Prayer at its proper time is the action God loves best. It is followed by a deed that concerns family relations. Both come ahead of jihad which has more to do with public life and with the common welfare of the Muslim community. Needless to say, prayer and dutifulness to parents require much less effort and sacrifice than jihad.
This ḥadīth shows that the Prophet had a keen insight into what motivates people to work and to sacrifice. We know that prayer is the most important Islamic duty, but it does not impose a heavy burden on the individual. It is an easy and pleasant duty which makes man constantly aware of what God requires of him and which keeps him on guard against falling into sin. It is only logical that the fulfilment of the top and most frequent duty should earn the greatest reward from God. What the ḥadīth tells us is that prayer should be offered on time in order to earn its great reward and be most pleasing to God. In other words, punctuality is of the essence for prayer to be highly rewarded.
Dutifulness to parents is placed second in importance. There is no doubt that our parents have the greatest claim on our love and kindness. Nothing that we may do for them in their old age, when they grow weaker and more dependent on us, is enough to pay them back for the care, kindness and love they gave us when we were young and totally dependent on them. It is sufficient to observe a mother taking care of a young child to appreciate her sacrifice and to realise that there is little a child can do in return.
Few people will argue about parents’ claims on their children’s kindness. Islam, however, makes such kindness a duty which earns God’s reward. He rewards us for our good actions even though we may do them only by way of duty. However, the emphasis Islam places on kindness and dutifulness to parents is due to two different considerations. First, it is easy for children just reaching adulthood to be preoccupied with their own affairs, looking after their own interests and being proud of their strength, youth, position, etc. This may easily lead them to be negligent of their duty to their parents. Some people find it very difficult to part with their money even when it is needed by their own parents. They may have more than enough for their own needs, and their parents may be poor, but they still find it extremely difficult to help their parents financially. It is not uncommon to hear about cases of unkind treatment of parents by their own sons or daughters. Hence, the reminder is needed and the Prophet does so in the most effective way.
Secondly, with such a great claim on our kindness and love, negligence of this duty towards parents may lead to negligence of other duties Islam requires of us. For example, we will definitely be less inclined to be kind towards others who are not related to us. We will be hesitant to extend our help and support to those who need it and have no immediate claim on us. Such an attitude is totally alien to Islamic behaviour. Hence, the Prophet stresses the importance of dutifulness to parents in a variety of ways. The second ḥadīth listed in this section runs as follows:
2. (Athar 1) ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿUmar said: ‘God’s pleasure lies in the parents’ pleasure and His displeasure is caused by the parents’ displeasure’.8
In this ḥadīth the Prophet shows that the surest way to earn God’s pleasure is to be dutiful to one’s parents. If one is unkind to them, to the extent that their love is replaced by displeasure, anger or bitterness, then this is the surest way to incur God’s displeasure. There can be no gloomier prospect than this.
Questions that may arise here are: what constitutes kind treatment of parents and whether both parents have the same claim to their children’s kindness. A ḥadīth that defines kindness to parents will be discussed presently, but we may say now in brief that it includes everything that tends to please parents and makes them happy, without involving any disobedience of God. It also includes looking after them and supporting them financially if they are so in need. As for whether either parent has a greater claim, the Prophet gives us a clear answer:
3. Muʿāwiyah ibn Ḥaydah reports: ‘I said: Messenger of God, to whom should I be most kind? He said: “Your mother”. I asked: to whom should I be most kind? He said: “Your mother”. I again asked: to whom should I be most kind? He said: “Your mother”. I asked once more: to whom should I be most kind? He said: “Your father. Then the nearest of kin then the next nearest”.’9
4. (Athar 2) ʿAṭā’ ibn Yasār said: ‘A man came to Ibn ʿAbbās and said: “I asked a woman to marry me but she refused. Another man proposed to her and she accepted him. I was so jealous, I killed her. Will my repentance be accepted by God?” Ibn ʿAbbās asked him: “Is your mother alive?” The man said: “No”. Ibn ʿAbbās said to him: “Then repent sincerely to God, the Mighty, the Exalted, and try as hard as you can to draw closer to Him”. ʿAṭā’ said: I went back to Ibn ʿAbbās and asked him why he had enquired from the man if his mother was alive. He said: “I know nothing which earns God’s pleasure more than dutifulness to one’s mother”.’10
5. Abu Hurayrah said: ‘Someone said: “Messenger of God, to whom should I be dutiful?” He said: “Your mother”. The questioner asked: “Who comes next?” The Prophet said: “Your mother”. The man asked again: “And who next?” The Prophet said: “Your mother”. The man said: “Who next?” The Prophet said: “Your father”.’11
6. Abu Hurayrah reported: ‘A man came to the Prophet and said: “What do you command me [to do]?” He replied: “Be dutiful to your mother”. The man asked him again and he replied: “Be dutiful to your mother”. The man repeated the question yet again, and the Prophet said: “Be dutiful to your mother”. He asked the same question for the fourth time and the Prophet said: “Be dutiful to your mother”. When he repeated the question for the fifth time, the Prophet said: “Be dutiful to your father”.’
Three of these four ḥadīths mention a question put to the Prophet asking him who of all people deserves our kind treatment. Whether these ḥadīths refer to the same occasion or to different ones, it appears that the enquirer wanted to learn an order of preference. Hence the repeated question when he gets the same answer three or four times.
Muslim scholars have spoken at length on this point and we can conclude from their discussion that the mother takes precedence over the father in her claim to her children’s dutifulness. This does not mean that the father has a lesser claim. Indeed, some scholars consider that the father has even greater rights to his children’s dutifulness. However, this does not contradict her right to precedence. This is, however, a fine point that needs some elaboration.
The Prophet emphasises the mother’s right to be the recipient of kindly and dutiful treatment from her children for a number of reasons. There is firstly the fact that people tend to take the mother’s rights lightly; they are more negligent of their duties towards her. The relationship between a mother and her children, including her sons, is normally confined within the family home. A son, or a daughter, may be unkind, disobedient and even i...

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