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“While we were one day sitting with the Messenger of Allah, there appeared before us a man dressed in extremely white clothes and with very black hair. No traces of journeying were visible on him, and none of us knew him. He sat down close by the Prophet , rested his knee against his thighs, and said, “O Muhammad! Inform me about Islam.”
The Messenger of Allah said, “Islam is that you should testify that there is no deity except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, that you should perform salah, pay the Zakah, fast during Ramadan, and perform Hajj to the House, if you are able to do so.”
The man said, “You have spoken truly.” We were astonished at his questioning him (the Messenger) and telling him that he was right, but he went on to say, “Inform me about Iman.”
He answered, “It is that you believe in Allah and His angels and His Books and His Messengers and in the Last Day, and in qadar (fate), both in its good and in its evil aspects.” He said, “You have spoken truly.”
Then he (the man) said, “Inform me about Ihsaan.” He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, “It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet (know that) He sees you.”
He said, “Inform me about the Hour.” He (the Messenger of Allah) said, “About that, the one questioned knows no more than the questioner.” So he said, “Well, inform me about the signs thereof.” He said, “They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, that you will see the barefooted, naked, destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings.” Thereupon the man went off. I waited a while, and then he (the Messenger of Allah) said, “O Umar, do you know who that questioner was?” I replied, “Allah and His Messenger know better.” He said, “That was Jibril (the Angel Gabriel). He came to teach you your religion.”1
Significance of the Hadeeth
The comprehensiveness of this hadeeth makes it one of the most complete explanations towards understanding every single outward and inward acts of worship to Allah. This hadeeth touches upon every single deed mentioned in Islam, so much so that it is called Umm al-Sunnah or the Foundation of the Sunnah, similar to how Surah Al-Fatihah is called Umm al-Kitaab or the Foundation of the Book.
When Did This Incident Take Place?
Ibn Hajr says that this incident took place close to the Prophet’s death while some others say it was just before the Prophet’s Farewell Pilgrimage. Therefore, it is believed that Angel Gibreel was summarizing the entire mission and message that Islam came to propagate and convey through this hadeeth.
The Appearance of Angel Gibreel
The appearance and the mannerisms of Angel Gibreel have some extremely important aspects to it, which will be discussed below.
- Appearance: “a man dressed in extremely white clothes….no traces of journeying”, Umar Ibn al Khattab points out to how the man was dressed in his finest manner, so much so that they was no trace of dirt or effects of journeying on his clothes or his face. Commenting on this, the scholars have said that it is highly recommended for us Muslims, to take care of our outer appearance, appear well-groomed and clean, especially while attaining to seek knowledge.
- Manner: Seeking knowledge needs to be done with humility, showing utmost respect to the ones that are teaching us. We must purify our intentions and seek knowledge in order to get closer to Allahand invite people towards getting closer to Allah, rather than becoming knowledgeable in order to attain worldly status or fame.
- Questioning: It is important to understand that asking questions about Islam is encouraged and no one should shy away from learning more about this deen. However, we live in a day and age where incessant questioning or indulging in needless arguments is plastered all over the internet world. So, let’s see what’s okay and what’s not.
Questions That Are Encouraged:
- Learning more about this deen.
- Learning about the sunnah.
- Learning rulings and commands mentioned in the Quran and sunnah.
- Questions that require real answers to real issues being faced by the ummah, etc.
Questions That Are Discouraged
- Those which result in useless debates with each group trying to win the argument rather than letting the truth come out.
- Questions and arguments that are made for winning keyboard battles and those that give a boost to one’s ego even if it’s useless, rather than genuinely trying to learn more about the deen.
- Theoretical questions that neither benefit you in this world or the hereafter, etc.
What Is Islam….
This was the first question asked by Angel Gibreel. The five pillars of Islam will be discussed in detail in the next hadeeth inshaAllah, however, we will briefly touch upon this subject here.
- Proclamation that “There is no God worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger”. By verbally proclaiming your belief, you take the first step towards coming closer to Allah and following His commandments. You also agree to follow and adhere to everything that our Prophet taught and preached. You agree to accept the message of Allah revealed through His Messenger. You agree to follow the Quran and Sunnah, thereby, making your proclamation complete. By doing so, you are attesting to Islam and surrendering through your heart and tongue.
- After pronouncing your shahadah, a Muslim goes ahead to fulfill his/her obligation of performing salah, five times a day at their fixed timings. By doing so, you are surrendering through your limbs, taking time out from your worldly affairs and schedules to remember, glorify and worship Allah. This not only helps you get closer to Allah, but also helps you erase your evil deeds, organize your day around remembering Allah and in turn, brings barakah and mercy in your life.
- Pay Zakat: Zakat is to give 2.5% in charity from your annual savings in order to distribute the wealth and finances, which Allah has blessed you with, to the poor and needy sections of the society, so the money and wealth doesn’t circulate amongst the elite sections of the society alone. Parting away with some of your savings helps your heart get rid of excessive worldly desires, develops compassion making your more empathetic towards the poor, and prevents useless hoarding of wealth and money, which most of the time lead a person away from the remembrance of Allah.
- Fasting during Ramadan: The abstinence from food, drinks and sexual activity from dawn to dusk helps a Muslim to develop taqwa, strengthen his/her faith and belief, benefitting his/her body and soul.
- Performing Hajj: This is obligatory on a person who is capable (financially, physically and mentally) of undertaking the pilgrimage to the blessed cities of Makkah and Medina and forms the ultimate pinnacle of being a Muslim.
In the next part, let’s look at what it means to have imaan in one’s life.
- al-Bukhari and Muslim ↩