The Hadith of Jibril [Angel Gabriel] (as) Explained

Section: Iman

As for iman, the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, explained it in this hadith as inward beliefs, saying, “That you have iman in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Rising after death, and that you have iman in the Decree, the good of it and the bad of it.” Allah has mentioned iman in His Book with these five fundamental principles in many places, such as in His words, exalted is He, “The Messenger has iman in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and so do the muminun. Each one has iman in Allah and His angels and His Books and His Messengers. We do not differentiate between any of His Messengers.” (Surat al-Baqarah: 285) And He says, exalted is He, “Rather, those with true devoutness are those who have iman in Allah and the Last Day, the Angels, the Book and the Prophets.” (Surat al-Baqarah: 177) And He says, exalted is He, “Those who have iman in the Unseen and establish salat and give of what We have provided for them; those who have iman in what has been sent down to you and what was sent down before you, and are certain about the akhira.” (Surat al-Baqarah: 3-4)

Iman in the Messengers requires that one believes in everything of which they have informed us: the angels, the Messengers, the Book, the Rising and the Decree, and other things of the details of which they have informed us of the attributes of Allah, exalted is He, and the attributes of the Last Day, such as the Sirat [the narrow path laid over the top of the Fire which the muminun pass across to reach the Garden and from which the kafirun and munafiqun fall into the Fire], the Scales [for weighing deeds], the Garden and the Fire. Included in iman in the Decree is the good of it and the bad of it. Because of this phrase Ibn ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with both of them, narrated this hadith as a proof against whoever repudiates the Decree and claims that the affair is only happening now for the first time without a prior decree from Allah, mighty is He and majestic. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar was tough with them and absolved himself of any connection to them, and he said that their actions would not be acceptable without belief in the Decree.

Belief in the Decree has two degrees: first, belief that Allah, exalted is He, has prior knowledge of what good and evil the slaves do, their obedience and disobedience, before creating them and bringing them into existence, knowing who of them are people of the Garden and who of them are for the Fire. He created reward and punishment for them as recompense for their actions before creating them and making them be, and He wrote that down with Him and enumerated it, and the slaves’ actions run according to what is previously decreed in His knowledge and in His Book.

The second degree is that Allah, exalted is He, created all of the slaves’ actions, good and bad, kufr, iman, obedience and disobedience, and willed them for them. This is the degree which the people of the Sunnah and of the Community affirm, but which the people of free-will (al-Qadariyyah) reject and deny. The first degree is affirmed by many of the people of free-will, although their extremists such as Ma’bad al-Juhani, the one about whose words Ibn ‘Umar was asked, ‘Amr ibn ‘Ubayd and others, deny it.

Many of the imams of the first right-acting generations said, “Reason with the people of free-will with knowledge, and if they affirm it [the Decree but deny that Allah creates the slaves’ actions] they should be argued with, and if they reject it [the Decree] they have become kuffar,” meaning that whoever negates the prior and pre-time knowledge of the slaves’ actions and that Allah, exalted is He, apportioned them before creating them to be those who are grievous [in that their end is the Fire] and those who are happy [in that their end is the Garden], and that He wrote that down with Him in a well-protected book, then they have denied the Qur’an and thus become kuffar. If they affirm it and yet deny that Allah creates the slaves’ actions and wills them from them with a willing which is a decreeing cosmic will then they are to be argued with, because that which they affirm is a proof against them in this denial of theirs. In attributing kufr to them there is a well-known disagreement among the people of knowledge.

As for someone who denies the pre-existent knowledge [of Allah], then both ash-Shafi’i and Ahmad took the position that he is a kafir, and similarly other imams of Islam.

If someone says that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, made a distinction in this hadith between Islam and iman, and regarded all the actions as a part of Islam but not of iman, then [we say that] the well known position of the right-acting first generations and the people of hadith is that iman is word, deed and intention, and that all of the actions are comprised under iman. Ash-Shafi’i recounted that that was the consensus of the Companions and the Followers and those after them who had reached them.

The first right-acting generations strenuously rejected whoever excludes deeds from iman. Some of those who rejected and repudiated that and regarded it as an innovated phrase were Sa’id ibn Jubayr, Maymun ibn Mahran, Qatadah, Ayyub as-Sikhtiyani, Ibrahim an-Nakha’i, az-Zuhri, Yahya ibn Abi Kathir and others. Ath-Thawri said, “It is an innovated view, and we found people [before us] holding another view.” Al-Awza’i said, “Those of the right-acting first generations who preceded us did not make any distinction between action and iman.”

‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz wrote to the people of the outlying provinces: “Iman has obligations, legal matters, [limits] and sunnahs which whoever completes has completed iman, and whoever does not complete has not completed iman.” This is mentioned by al-Bukhari in his Sahih.

Someone said, “The matter is as he said.” What shows that actions are a part of iman is His words, exalted is He, “The muminun are those whose hearts tremble when Allah is mentioned, whose iman is increased when His Signs are recited to them, and who put their trust in their Lord; those who establish salat and give of what We have provided for them. They are in truth the muminun.” (Surat al-Anfal: 2)

In the two sahih books there is from Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with both of them, that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to the deputation from ‘Abd al-Qays, “I order you to do four things: have iman in Allah, and do you know what iman in Allah is? [It is] witnessing that there is no god but Allah, establishing the prayer, producing the zakat, fasting Ramadan, and giving the fifth of the booty.”

In the two sahih books there is from Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Iman is more than sixty,” or, “more than sixty branches, the best of which is the saying, ‘There is no god but Allah,’ and the least of which is removing something that would cause harm from the road. And modesty is a branch of iman.” The wording is taken from Muslim.

In the two sahih books there is from Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “The adulterer does not commit adultery when he does so while being a mumin, nor does the one who drinks wine do so while he is a mumin. The thief does not steal when he does so while being a mumin.” If leaving these great wrong actions does not come under the name ‘iman’ he would not have rejected the application of the term ‘iman’ to the one who does any of these things, because the term is only denied because of absence of the elements of that which is named [by the term] or its requirements.

As for the aspect of unifying these texts with the hadith of the questioning of Jibril, peace be upon him, about Islam and iman, and the distinctions the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, made between them, and his including actions under Islam rather than under iman, it becomes clear by the determination of a principle, which is that some names comprise many named things when they are used by themselves and unrestrictedly. However, when that name is paired with another then it comes to designate only some of those named things while the name which is coupled with it designates the rest of them, for example, the nouns ‘faqir Ð poor, needy’ and ‘miskin ÐÊbereft’. If either one is used singly it designates all those who are in need, but if one is used along with the other then one of the two designates some of those who are in need and the other designates the rest of them. It is similar with the terms Islam and iman. If one of the terms is used alone it comprises the meanings of the other, and by being used singly it designates what the other would designate if used singly. If they are coupled one of them designates only some of that which it would designate if used singly, and the other designates the rest.

A group of the imams have stated this clearly. Abu Bakr al-Isma’ili said in his letter to the people of the mountain, “Many of the people of the Sunnah and the Community say that iman is word and deed, and that Islam is doing that which Allah has made obligatory for the human to do, in the case where the two terms are mentioned coupled. So it is said that the ‘muminun’ and the ‘muslimun’ together each takes a particular meaning, so that what is meant by one of them is not what is meant by the other, but that if one of the two terms is mentioned it comprises everything and is generally true of all of them [the muslims or the muminun].”

Al-Khattabi also mentions this sense in his book Ma’alim as-Sunan “Waymarks of the Sunnahs”, and a group of the people of knowledge afterwards emulated him in that. What indicates the correctness of that is that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, explained the term iman when he mentioned it by itself, in the hadith about the deputation of ‘Abd al-Qays, in the same way that he explained Islam when conjoined to iman in the hadith about Jibril. In another hadith he explained Islam in the same way as he had explained iman, as it is reported in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad from ‘Amr ibn ‘Abasah that he said, “A man came to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and asked, ‘Messenger of Allah, what is Islam?’ He said, ‘That you surrender your heart to Allah, and that the muslims are safe from your tongue and your hand.’ He asked, ‘Which [part of] Islam is better? He said, ‘Iman.’ He asked, ‘What is iman?’ That you believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Rising after death.’ He asked, ‘What [part of] iman is better?’ He answered, ‘Emigration.’ He asked, ‘What is emigration?’ He replied, ‘That you give up evil.’ He asked, ‘Which [type of] emigration is better?’ He said, ‘Jihad.'” The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said that iman is the best part of Islam and included actions within it.

By this detailed statement, the exact determination of the meaning of the statement as to whether iman and Islam are one thing or two different things becomes clear.

The people of the Sunnah and of the hadith differ on it, and they have compiled numerous works about it. Some of them claim that the majority of the people of the Sunnah agree that they are one thing, among them Muhammad ibn Nasr al-Marwazi and Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, and this position has been narrated by Ayyub ibn Suwayd ar-Ramli as that of Sufyan ath-Thawri, but Ayyub has some weakness [as a narrator]. Some say, among them Abu Bakr ibn as-Sam’ani and others, that the people of the Sunnah make a distinction between the two. This distinguishing between the two is narrated of many of the right-acting first generations, for example Qatadah, Dawud ibn Abi Hind, Abu Ja’far al-Baqir, az-Zuhri, Hammad ibn Zayd, Ibn Mahdi, Shurayk, Ibn Abi Dhi’b, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Abu Khaythamah, Yahya ibn Ma’in and others, although there exist disagreements among them as to the nature of the difference between them [Islam and Iman]. Al-Hasan and Ibn Sirin used to say, “[I am a] Muslim,” and they would be in awe of using the term, “Mu’min.”

By means of the detailed explanation we have mentioned above the [apparent] disagreement is removed, since we are saying that if either term is mentioned by itself then at that time there is no difference between them, but that if the two terms are coupled, then there is a distinction between them.

The exact nature of the difference between them is that iman is the affirmation of the heart, its confirmation, and its recognition, whereas Islam is the surrender of the slave to Allah, his humility and his compliant submission, which is expressed in actions, and that is the deen, just as Allah called Islam ‘deen’ in His Book. In the hadith of Jibril, the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, called Islam, iman and ihsan ‘deen’. This is another clear indication that when one of the two terms is used singly it includes [the meanings of] the other, and that a distinction is only made between them when one of the two terms is coupled with the other, at which time what is meant by iman is everything that comprises affirmation from the heart, and by Islam everything that comprises action.

In the Musnad of Imam Ahmad there is from Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Islam is public, whereas iman is in the heart.” That is because actions are manifest publicly, and affirmation, which is in the heart, does not become manifest. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to say in his supplication when performing the prayer over the dead, “O Allah, whomever of us you make to live, let him live in Islam, and whomever of us you make to die, let him die in iman,” because deeds are done by the limbs which one is only able to do while alive. Then, at death, nothing remains but the heart’s affirmation.

From this the people of knowledge who ascertain the fine details of knowledge say that every mumin is a Muslim, because whoever makes a reality of iman and it becomes firmly established in his heart will undertake the actions of Islam, as he said, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, “Certainly, in the body there is a morsel of flesh, which if it is sound then the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt the whole body is corrupt. Certainly it is the heart.” If the heart makes iman a reality then the limbs proceed to the actions of Islam. Not every Muslim is a mumin, since perhaps iman may be weak so that the heart does not realise it completely, along with the limbs’ performance of the actions of Islam, so that such a person is a Muslim because he is not a mumin with a complete iman, as Allah, exalted is He, says, “The desert Arabs say, ‘We have iman.’ Say: ‘You do not have iman. Say rather, “We have become Muslim,” for iman has not yet entered into your hearts.'” (Surat al-Hujurat: 14) They were not complete hypocrites according to the more authentic of the two interpretations, the statement of Ibn ‘Abbas and others, but their iman was weak, which is indicated by His words, exalted is He, “If you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not undervalue your actions in any way,” (Surat al-Hujurat: 14) meaning that He will not deprive you of anything of your rewards which shows they had enough iman for their actions to be accepted.

Similarly, there are the words of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, to Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas when he asked him, “Why did you not give to so when he is a mumin?” and the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Or a Muslim?” indicating that he had not realised the station of iman but was only in the station of outward Islam. There is no doubt that whenever inward iman is weak it necessarily follows that outward actions will be weak as well, but use of the term iman is precluded for whoever leaves out any of his duties, just as in his words, “The adulterer does not commit adultery when he does while being a mumin.”

The people of the Sunnah differ over whether such a person is termed ‘a mumin with a shortcoming in his iman’ or whether he is said not to be a mumin but a Muslim, according to two distinct positions both of which are narrated of Ahmad.

As for the term Islam, its use is not precluded because of a person’s failure with respect to some of his duties or his undertaking some of the things which are forbidden, but it is only precluded if he does something that negates it completely. There is nothing known in the authentic Sunnah which implies that someone who gives up one of Islam’s requirements is not a Muslim, in the way that use of the term iman is precluded for someone who gives up any of its requirements, even though the term kufr has been used categorically for doing some of those things which are forbidden, and similarly hypocrisy has also been used categorically.

The people of knowledge differ as to whether someone who perpetrates one of the great wrong actions is called a kafir with a lesser kufr or a hypocrite with a lesser hypocrisy, but I know of none of them who permit the unqualified negation of the application of the term Islam to such a person [i.e. to say that he is not a Muslim], except for what is narrated from Ibn Mas’ud, may Allah be pleased with him, that he said, “The one who gives up zakat is not a Muslim,” and it is possible that because of that he regarded him as a kafir who had gone out of Islam.

Similarly, it is narrated of ‘Umar about people who are able to do the hajj but do not do it, that they are not Muslims, and the apparent outward meaning is that he believed that they are kuffar. So for that reason he wanted to impose the jizyah tax on them, saying, “They haven’t yet entered into Islam, and they continue in their condition of being people of the Book.” Since it has become clear that use of the term Islam is not precluded except because of the existence of something which precludes it [Islam] and which removes someone entirely from the deen, then if the term Islam is used unrestrictedly or paired with some praise it also includes all of iman, affirmation and everything else, as we saw before in the hadith of ‘Amr ibn ‘Abasah.

An-Nasa’i narrated the hadith of ‘Uqbah ibn Malik, “That the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, sent a raiding party which attacked some people, one man of whom said, ‘I am a Muslim,’ and whom one of the raiding party then killed. The story was told to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who spoke to him severely. The man said, ‘The man only said it seeking refuge from being killed.’ The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Allah refused me to kill a mumin,’ three times.” If it were not that the unqualified use of the term Islam comprises iman and affirmation of the five principles, one who said ‘I am a Muslim’ would not become a mumin by simply saying these words. Allah, exalted is He, told us that the Queen of Saba entered Islam with these words, “My Lord, I have wronged myself but I have submitted with Sulayman to the Lord of all the worlds.” (Surat an-Naml: 46). He told us that Yusuf, peace be upon him, supplicated that he should die in Islam, all of which shows that Islam used unqualifiedly comprises everything of affirmation which iman comprises.

In the Sunan of Ibn Majah there is that ‘Adi ibn Hatim said, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to me, ‘O ‘Adi, submit [in Islam] and you will be safe.’ I asked, ‘What is Islam?’ He replied, ‘That you witness that there is no god but Allah, and you witness that I am the Messenger of Allah, you believe in the Decrees, all of them, the good of them and the bad of them, those which are sweet and those which are bitter.” This is a clear textual proof that iman in the Decree is a part of Islam.

Moreover, the two shahadahs are indisputably some of the features of Islam, but it is not meant that one should merely articulate them without affirming them to be true, so we know that affirmation of them is comprised under Islam. The Islam mentioned in His words, exalted is He, “The deen with Allah is Islam,” (Surah Ali ‘Imran: 19) is explained by a party of the right-acting first generations, one of whom is Muhammad ibn Ja’far ibn az-Zubayr, as tawhid and affirmation.

If use of the term iman is precluded for someone whose Islam is established, such as the desert Arabs about whom Allah informs us, then what is precluded is the first establishment of iman in the heart although it is established that he shares in the outward actions of Islam along with a type of iman which renders his actions sound for without this measure of iman he would not be a Muslim. They [the desert Arabs] were only excluded from use of the term iman because they lacked the tasting of some of its realities and because of shortcomings in some of its requirements. This is based on the fact that iman which is established in the hearts has different degrees, and this is the correct answer and it is also the most authentic of the two narrations related from Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmad ibn Hanbal. The iman of the siddiqun [the completely truthful people who unhesitatingly affirm the truth]Êto whose hearts the Unseen manifests itself so much that it becomes as if direct witnessing, in so much as it does not admit of any kind of doubt, is not the same as the iman of others who have not reached this degree, since if something causes them doubt they come to doubt. For this reason, the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, defined the degree of ihsan as that the slave should worship and serve his Lord as if he sees him, and this is not obtained by the generality of the muminun. One of them said, “Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, does not have precedence over you because of a great amount of fasting and prayer, but because of something which settled in his breast.”

Ibn ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with both of them, was asked, “Did the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, use to laugh?” He said, “Yes, and the iman in their hearts was like mountains.” What relationship does this have to those in whose hearts iman weighs as much as the egg of an ant or a seed of barley? Or such as those people from among the people of tawhid who will emerge from the Fire? These are the ones about whom one could correctly say, “Iman has not entered into their hearts,” because of its feebleness with them.

These issues, I mean the issues of Islam and iman, kufr and hypocrisy are tremendously important, because Allah, mighty is He and majestic, has connected [eternal] blessed good fortune and [eternal] misery, and proving worthy of the Garden or the Fire, to these terms. The disagreements as to what they designate were the first disagreements to arise in this community, which was the disagreement of the Khawarij with the Companions, since they regarded disobedient people possessed tawhid as entirely out of Islam and counted them as being in the circle of kufr and treated them as they would kuffar, by which they declared it permissible to shed the blood of Muslims and seize their property. Then after them there arose the opposition of the Mu’tazilah and their assertion of the existence of a station between the two stations [of the Garden and the Fire]. Then there arose the disagreements of the Murji’ah and their taking the position that corrupt people are muminun with perfect iman.

The people of knowledge, in early times and in later times, compiled numerous works on these issues, among whom there were Imam Ahmad, Abu ‘Ubayd al-Qasim ibn Salam, Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah and Muhammad ibn Aslam at-Tusi from the imams of the right-acting first generations. All groups after them compiled great numbers of works on it. In this I have mentioned some comprehensive points which cover many principles of these issues and the disagreements that there are respecting them, and there is in it, if Allah wills, sufficiency.

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