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The Faith of the Prophet's Parents

The Faith of the Prophet’s Parents.

This is a translation of the works of Pir Muhammad Karam Shah al-Azhari (may Allah have mercy upon him) in Zia al-Nabi, the award-winning biographical account of the Prophet’s life, on what he wrote regarding the faith of parents of the Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Pir Muhammad Karam Shah al-Azhari (may Allah have mercy upon him) writes in (vol. II, p. 78);

 

‘The majority of the Ahl Sunna wa al-Jama’at scholars adhere to the opinion that the parents of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) are recipients of salvation and are blessed with the bounties of paradise. The opinions of the scholars can be divided into three camps.

 

Camp One.

 

This camp states that the parents belonged to the period of Fitra (nature). The closest Prophet prior to this period was Isa (peace be upon him), who appeared six hundred years before our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). During this period, the divine scripture revealed to Isa had become subject to alterations and changes. Rather than referring to him as the servant of Allah, people began referring to Isa as the son of God. If people of this period were to seek guidance, where would they attain it from? If they wanted to hear the truth, who would they hear it from? Furthermore, Isa (peace be upon him) was only sent for the guidance of Bani Israel, not for people universally. Isa did not preach the people of Arabia, and nor did his disciples. In light of these facts, the saying of Allah is applicable to such people of Fitra;

 

‘And We do not torment until We send a Messenger.’

 

Allama Ali ibn Burhan al-Din writes in Seerah Halbiyya,

 

‘Allama Ibn Hajr al-Haithami has mentioned that the correct opinion in which there is no doubt is that the people of Fitra are recipients of salvation. These are the ones to whom a messenger has not been sent to entrust them with the faith in Allah. Thus the Arabs- even in the time when prophets were sent to Bani Israel- were the People of Fitra, because these prophets were not instructed to preach the Arabs. Their task of preaching was restricted to Bani Israel.’ (Seerah Halbiyya. Imam Muhammad Abu Zuhra, vol. I, p. 103).

 

‘And never will your Lord destroy the towns (populations) until He sends to their mother town a Messenger reciting to them Our Verses’ (28: 59)

 

The scholars have divided the People of Fitra into three categories;

 

a. The first are those beings who through their own enlightened insight were able to deduce the oneness of Allah, like Qus ibn Sa’ida, Zaid ibn Amr ibn Nawfal and some of the kings of the community of Tubba.

 

b. The second are those who diverted from the religion of Ibrahim and began worshipping idols. They forced this misguided belief onto others too, like Amr ibn Lahy. There is no doubt that such people are destined for the Fire of Hell.

 

c. The third are those who through their lack of knowledge and disregard refrained from accepting other beliefs and remained firm on monotheism. They did not indulge in polytheism and idol-worship. These are the people who fall under the verse ‘And We do not torment until We send a Messenger.’

 

Regarding the faith of the Prophet’s parents, one position is that they belong to the people of Fitra. No prophet was sent to them from the time of Ismail up until the official announcement of Prophet-hood from Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), nor did they perform any act associated with disbelief.

 

 

Camp Two

 

The second camp of scholars state that the parents of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) never committed disbelief and polytheism. Throughout their lives, they remained firm on the religion of their forefather Ibrahim (peace be upon him), were known for noble moral qualities and they had unshaken belief in Allah’s oneness and in the Day of Judgement.  Imam Fakr al-Din Razi is one such advocate of this position. He writes,

 

‘Verily the fathers of the prophets were not disbelievers, because of the saying of Allah ‘He is the One who sees you when you stand; and when you were transferred in the loins of the prostrating ones.’ It is said the meaning is that his Nur transferred from one prostrating one to the next, proving that all the fathers of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) were Muslims.’ (Seerah Halbiyya. Imam Muhammad Abu Zuhra, vol. I, p. 103).

 

Imam Jalal al-Din Suyuti writes in his book Masalak al-Hunafa,

 

‘This proof is based on two elements. Firstly, it is proven from authentic Ahadith that from the time of Adam to Abd Allah [the Prophet’s father], the Prophet’s lineage were the best of their people. No one was better than his lineage in any generation.

Secondly, it is proven from Ahadith and traditions that from the time of Adam up until the time of Abd Allah, there was no period in which at least some People of Fitra existed, who worshipped Allah, performed Salah for Him and thus through their means and blessings the earth was preserved [from destruction]. If it was not for them, the earth and all above it would have perished. If we hypothetically assume that the forefathers of the Prophet were polytheists, then we must ask; were they still better than the others of that generation or not? If his fathers were still deemed better, then this necessitates that a polytheist and disbeliever is better than a Muslim. This maxim can never be accepted. And if others from previous generations were better than the Prophet’s forefathers, then this too is unacceptable because it has been proven from authentic Ahadith that his ancestry were the best of each generation. Therefore, it can only be deduced that the forefathers of the Prophet were all monotheists and believers, and were the best of their generations.

Now we well mention the authentic Ahadith that verify the first element of the argument; that the Prophet’s forefathers were throughout the best of their generations.

 

Abu Nua’im writes in Dala’il al-Nabuwwa, with the chain of Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

‘Allah continued to transfer me from the loins of the pure to the wombs of the pure, clean and mannered. No two groups have appeared except I was the best of the two.’

 

Imam Tirmidhi has recorded a Hadith which he classified as Hasan (Fair) as well as Imam Baihaqi from Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

‘When Allah created me, He made me from the best of creations. Then when he created the tribes, he made me from the best of tribes. And when He created souls (nafs) He made me from the best of souls. Then when He created households, He made me from the best of households. Thus I am the best in terms of household, and the best in terms of souls.’

Imam Tabrani writes in Awsat and Imam Baihaqi in Dala’il, from Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

‘Jibrael (peace be upon him) said to me, ‘I have searched the earth, the easts and the wests. And I did not find a man better than Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and I did not find a clan better than the clan of Bani Hashim.’

 

After citing the above narration, Allama Suyuti includes the saying of Imam Ibn Hajar,

 

‘Imam Ibn Hajar said, ‘And it is known that being the best, being the chosen and preferred comes from Allah. And in the eyes of Allah, being the best cannot occur with Shirk (polytheism).’

 

These reports have clearly shown that the Prophet’s forefathers – in each generation – were the best people of their respective times. This superiority can only be achieved when they believe in Allah and their belief is not tarnished with polytheism. Now we will mention proof to support the second element (that from the time of Adam up until the time of Abd Allah, there was no period in which at least some People of Fitra existed).

 

Imam Abd al-Razzaq wrote in al-Musannaf, from the chain of Ma’mar, from Ibn Juraij, from Ibn al-Mussaiyab; Ali ibn Abu Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) said,

‘The earth has continuously been occupied with at least seven Muslims or more. If this was not the case, the earth and its inhabitants would have perished.’

This chain is authentic (Sahih) according to the conditions set by Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim, and though it is saying of Ali (may Allah be pleased with him), we assume he heard it from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

 

Ibn al-Munzir has mentioned in his exegesis with a sound chain, from Ibn Juraij in the commentary of the verse ‘O Allah! Make me[Ibrahim] an establisher of Prayer, and from my offspring’; he said, ‘there has remained from the offspring of Ibrahim to our Prophet people on Fitra who have worshipped Allah.

 

Other than these reports, support for this opinion is to found in the Qur’anic verse,

 

‘And (remember) when Ibrahim said to his father and his people: "Verily, I am innocent of what you worship. Except Him (i.e. I worship none but Allah Alone) Who did create me, and verily, He will guide me. And he made it [i.e. La ilaha ill-Allah] a Word lasting among his offspring (True Monotheism), that they may turn back. (43: 26-28)

 

In an explanation of this verse, the following quote is from Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him),

 

‘The saying of Allah ‘Word lasting among his offspring’ means that La ilaha ill-Allah remains in the offspring of Ibrahim.’

 

Allama Sharstani writes in al-Milal wa al-Nihal,

 

‘The religion (Din) of Ibrahim remained established, and the monotheism of Allah remained widespread amongst the Arabs. And the first to alter the religion of Ibrahim and initiate the worship of idols was Amr ibn Luhaiiy.’

 

According to the experts, from the time of Ibrahim (peace be upon him) to Kab ibn Luhiy, all his fathers were adherents of the Abrahamic faith, and Kab’s son Marra was also firm on this religion (as his father advised him to remain firm on this path). Between Marra and Abd al-Muttalib, there were four fathers; Kalaab, Qusa, Abd Munaf and Hashim. We have already highlighted evidence to show these men were adherents to monotheism. With regards to Abd al-Muttalib, the saying of Allama Sharstani in al-Milal wa al-Nihal is sufficient;

 

‘The Nur of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) appeared in the glances of Abd al-Muttalib. With the blessings of this Nur, he was inspired to perform a solemn promise rather than sacrifice his son. With the blessings of this Nur, he used to order his sons not to indulge in tyranny and rebellion and he used to encourage them to adopt the most noble of manners. And he used to prohibit them from indecent acts. And with the blessings of this Nur, he had the courage to say to Abraha ‘verily for this House [Kaaba] is a Lord.’

 

Furthermore, when the enemies suddenly began firing arrows to the Muslims in the Battle of Hunain, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ascended his animal and charged into the battlefield saying,

 

‘I am the Prophet without doubt; I am the son of Abd al-Muttalib.’

 

If Abd al-Muttalib was not a monotheist, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would never have taken pride in taking his name, since taking pride in a lineage of disbelief is prohibited.

Those narrations that suggest that the Prophet’s parents are disbelievers or are subject to punishment are weak (Daif). Even if we assume that these narrations are of acceptable standard, then they are still rejected in light of the clear verses (e.g. ‘And We do not torment until We send a Messenger’) that oppose it.

 

Uqba has said regarding the Hadith which Hakim has described as sound (Sahih) in his Mustadrak,

 

‘No, by Allah! For [the reporter in the chain] Uthman ibn Umair has been classified as weak by Imam Dar Qutni.’

 

Imam Zahabi took a legal Islamic oath regarding the weakness of this Hadith.

 

After this analysis, Imam Jalal al-Din Suyuti wrote,

 

‘When in this issue there is nothing but weak reports, then investigation in it are pointless.’

 

 

Camp Three.

 

The opinion of some scholars is as such (as mentioned in Masalik al-Hunafa)

 

‘Allah Almighty resurrected his parents so that they brought faith in him. This opinion has generated support from a large group of Hadith experts and others, including Ibn Shaahin, Abu Bakr al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Sohaili, Qurtubi, Muhibb Tabri and Allama Nasir al-Din Ibn al-Munzir.’

 

In this issue, the contemporary, outstanding scholar has offered an exceptional analysis. I will cite from his book Khatam al-Nabiyyin, which – after reading – the observer will be reassured and heart-warmed.

 

‘And there is no doubt that the report that says that the parents of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) are in the fire are Gharib (rare) in terms of meaning and in terms of the chain [of the Hadith]. This is because Allah Almighty says ‘And We do not torment until We send a Messenger.’ And his father as well as his mother belonged to the period of Fitra, so how can they punished? This is contrary to religious realities; one passed away before Muhammad came into physical existence and the other when he was only a child and a prophet had not been sent. Therefore, the report that says that they are in the fire are rejected, firstly because of the unreliable chain and secondly because of its distance from the reality.’

 

He proceeds to write from the depth of his heart,

 

‘And in reality, I feel that someone is striking my ears and understanding when I imagine that the Abd Allah and Amina are subject to the fire. This is because Abd Allah was a young man known for his patience; he was willing to be sacrificed according to the solemn promise of his father and placed his head forward for it. And when Quraish offered a Fidya of one-hundred camels in its place, he was content. He refrained from pointless play, leisure and sin despite his young age and beauty; when a woman tried to seduce him, he replied, ‘As for the forbidden [that you are enticing me towards, I would rather die.’ Why would he thus be punished in the fire, [in addition to the fact] a prophet’s call did not reach him?’ [1]

 

As for the Prophet’s mother, this is the woman who experienced the death of her husband shortly after marriage, and thus responded with unparalleled patience and brought up her orphan child. No one can imagine that such a woman would be punished in the fire, despite the fact that no prophet came to her to give her guidance to Islam and to teach her monotheism.

 

He concludes by writing,

 

‘In conclusion and after studying all the reports in this matter, the parents of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) were from the people of Fitra, were close to guidance and noble manners as preached by his son thereafter. After analysing the Quranic verses and Ahadith, we cannot state that they are in the fire; his mother was a hard-working, patient woman who was caring to her son. There is no evidence present that suggests she is deserved of punishment in the fire. Rather, evidence points to the necessity of praising her and her husband, the one known as the Zhabih and Tahir…

…We have not reached this conclusion merely because our love for the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), though we pray to Allah to increase our love for him. We have reached this conclusion because it is a result of common sense, logic, strong proofs from Shariah and the Khuluq Mustaqim that point us in this direction.’

 

I will conclude the analysis with the decree of Qazi Abu Bakr ibn Arabi, a great Maliki Imam and the author of Tafsir Ahkam al-Quran,

 

‘Qazi Abu Bakr ibn Arabi was asked about a man who said that the Prophet’s parents were in the fire. He replied, ‘whosoever says such is cursed (Mal’un), since Allah Almighty said, ‘verily those who hurt Allah and His Messenger; Allah curses them in this world and the hereafter.’ And there is no hurt greater that ‘father of such and such is like that.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Khatam al-Nabiyiin. Imam Muhammad Abu Zuhra. Vol. I, p. 132-4.

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