Imam Nawawi’s Forty Hadith: Hadith 2: Muhammad’s Teaching about the Three Levels of faith: Islam (Islaam), Iman (Eeman), and Ihsan
The Forty Hadith is one of the best books written” about the hadith
I’m currently studying the ahadith compiled by Abu Zakaria Mohiuddin Yahya Ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi, sometimes abbreviated by his home town, al-Nawawi (631 – 676 A.H. / 1234 – 1278 A.D.). According to Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, this is “one of the best books written” about the hadith.
Ahadith (singular: hadith) are sayings attributed to Muhammad and descriptions of his deeds. Al-Nawawi was a Sunni scholar, and Shi’a Muslims look favorably upon his work.
Confusing Islam with Islam and its variant spellings
The use of the term Islam (also spelled Islaam) in this hadith can be confusing. Islam (Islaam) in this hadith does not refer to the entire Islamic religion, but the first level of faith – the five pillars.
Hadiths normally have two parts: isnad (sanad) and matn
isnad – a list of names, beginning with the collector in whose collection the tradition found a place followed by oral transmitters going back to Muḥammad or another ancient authority. Many hadiths were written down some 200 years after Muhammad died. The Encyclopaedia of Islam says there was little need for a chain of authorities in in the earliest times of Islam, “but as the first century of Islam advanced, the need for stating one’s authority developed. The collections of traditions which were compiled mainly in the 3rd/9th century onwards give complete isnads” (J. Robson, “Isnad”).
matn – the actual content of the hadith is called the matn. The Encyclopaedia of Islam says, “the matn has rarely been the subject of textual criticism…and, as G. H. A. Juynboll observes (The Authenticity of the Tradition Literature, Leiden 1969, 139), if the criteria which modern authors enumerate had been applied, there would have been very little left of the “authentic” collections” (A.J. Wensinck, “Matn”).
Here is the second hadith compiled by al-Nawawi, first in Arabic and then in English,
This second hadith is about the three main principles of Islam: Islam, Iman, and Ihsan. Islam is the five pillars, Iman is the six pillars of faith, and Ihsan pertains to worship. This is perhaps the best known and most popular of all the hadiths.
عن عمر رضي الله عنه أيضا ، قال : بينما نحن جلوس عـند رسـول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ذات يوم اذ طلع علينا رجل شديد بياض الثياب ، شديد سواد الشعر لا يرى عليه أثـر السفر ولا يعـرفه منا احـد. حتى جـلـس إلى النبي صلي الله عليه وسلم فـأسند ركبـتيه إلى ركبتـيه ووضع كفيه على فخذيه، وقـال: ” يا محمد أخبرني عن الإسلام “.
فقـال رسـول الله صـلى الله عـليه وسـلـم :(الإسـلام أن تـشـهـد أن لا إلـه إلا الله وأن محـمـد رسـول الله وتـقـيـم الصلاة وتـؤتي الـزكاة وتـصوم رمضان وتـحـج البيت إن اسـتـطـعت اليه سبيلا).
قال : صدقت.
فعجبنا له ، يسأله ويصدقه ؟
قال : فأخبرني عن الإيمان .
قال : أن تؤمن بالله وملائكته وكتبه ورسله واليوم الاخر وتؤمن بالقدر خيره وشره .
قال : صدقت .
قال : فأخبرني عن الإحسان .
قال : ان تعبد الله كأنك تراه ، فإن لم تكن تراه فإنه يراك .
قال : فأخبرني عن الساعة .
قال : “ما المسؤول عنها بأعلم من السائل “
قال : فأخبرني عن أماراتها .
قال : ” أن تلد الأم ربتها ، وان ترى الحفاة العراة العالة رعاء الشاء يتطاولون في البنيان”
ثم انطلق ، فلبثت مليا ،ثم قال :” يا عمر أتدري من السائل ؟”
قلت : “الله ورسوله أعلم “.
قال : فإنه جبريل ، اتاكم يعلمكم دينكم “رواه مسلم [ رقم : 8 ]
It was related by Muslim (صحيح مسلم).
One day while we were sitting with the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) there appeared before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white and whose hair was exceedingly black; no signs of journey were to be seen on him and none of us knew him. He walked up and sat down in front of the Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam), with his knees touching against the Prophet’s (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) and placing the palms of his hands on his thighs he said: “O Muhammad, tell me about Islaam.”
The Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “Islaam is to testify that there is no deity worthy of worship but Allaah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah, to perform prayers, to give Zakaah, to fast in Ramadaan, and to make the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to do so.”
He said: “You have spoken rightly”; and we were amazed at him asking him and saying that he had spoken rightly.
He (the man) said: “Tell me about Iman (Eemaan).”
He (the Prophet, sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “It is to believe in Allaah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Last Day, and to believe in divine destiny (qadr), both the good and the evil of it.”
He said: “You have spoken rightly.”
He (the man) said: “Then tell me about Ihsaan.”
He (the Prophet, sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “It is to worship Allaah as though you see Him, and if you do not see Him, then (knowing that) truly He sees you.”
He said: “Then tell me about the Hour.”
He said: “The one questioned about it knows no better than the questioner.”
He said: “Then tell me about its signs.”
He said: “That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, and that you will see barefooted, naked destitute shepherds competing in constructing lofty buildings.”
Then he (the man) left, and I stayed for a time. The he (the Prophet, sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “O `Umar, do you know who the questioner was?”
I said: “Allaah and His Messenger know best.”
He said: “It was Jibreel [Gabriel], who came to teach you your religion.”
Ali Gomaa’s Explanation of the Second Hadeeth
In order to get a non-Western and Muslim interpretation I have been listening to Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt,
The first question asked of Muhammad was about Islam. The answer Muhammad gave was the “five pillars” (Islam). The second question was about the six pillars of faith (Iman).
“Islam is five pillars, while faith is six pillars.” These six pillars are “to believe in Allaah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Last Day, and to believe in divine destiny (qadr), both the good and the evil of it.”
“The third level of Islam is Ihsan.” This third level is to worship Allaah as though you see Him, and if you do not see Him, then (knowing that) truly He sees you. “Therefore, there are two parts in this level. One part is worshipping Allah as if you can see him without any veil. For the one who worships Allah as if he sees Him will never disobey Him, and he is in a state of dignity and beauty, in a state of hope and prestige. For he doesn’t commit sins and doesn’t delay doing good deeds, and rushes in doing them. All these meanings come when a person worships his Lord as if he sees Him. And if the person cannot reach this level, he tries the next level ‘and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you.’ Here, the person makes a transition from his soul to his mind. In his mind, he knows that the All-Wise is watching him…”
Summary of the three levels of Islam
There are three levels of Islam:
- Islam: Five Pillars
- Iman: Six Pillars of Faith
- Ihsan: worship Allah as though you see Him, sometimes called perfection in worship.
Christianity and Hadith 2
There is much I could say, but will limit myself to one observation that is too often overlooked. One of the 6 tenants of the Muslim faith is belief in Allah’s angels. Christians also believe in angels, but there is something distinctive about our believe in angels. We believe Jesus is greater than the angels. Angels are commanded to worship Jesus, angels do Jesus’ bidding. Jesus’ supremacy over angels was demonstrated in the many instances of His casting out demons. The first two chapters of the book of Hebrews explores Jesus’ supremacy over the angels and the book of Revelation is an extened discussion of this as well (cf. Hebrews 1:1-6; Revelation 5:11-14).
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