Op-Ed Religion

JUMAT SERMON: Emulating The Salaf (Predecessors)?

JUMAT SERMON: Emulating The Salaf (Predecessors)?
  • PublishedFebruary 12, 2021


By Imam Ibrahim Raji Oladejo

IN the Name of Allah, The Entirely- Merciful, The Especially-Merciful. All praise due to Allah, Who has chosen for us Islam as our religion. May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon His Messenger, His household and companions. O Brethren!  

The golden period of Islamic history fell within the first three generations of the Islamic era, namely: the Prophetic/Companions’ era, the eras of Taabi’een (the followers) and Taabi it Taabi’een (followers of the followers) respectively. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “The best people are those living in my generation. And then those who will follow them, and those who will come after the latter.” Though, the foundation of Islam had been solidly laid during the lifetime of the Prophet (SAW) as Allah confirmed in the Qur’an 5:3: “This day, I have perfected your Deen (religion) for you, completed My ni’mah (favour ) upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”

A short while after that revelation, the Prophet (SAW) passed away, but not until He had raised a group of trustworthy prominent people who  continued the noble cause He initiated by Allah’s command. They strove tirelessly till the glory of Islam reached the peak. They were responsible for the spread of the religion beyond Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the world. That generation and their immediate successors are commonly referred to as the “Salaf” (the predecessors), or “Salafus Saaliheen” (the righteous predecessors).They were elites worthy of emulation. More so, the Messenger (SAW) commanded the Muslims to follow their footsteps. When he said in the Hadeeth narrated by Irbaad ibn Saariyah who said: “The messenger of Allah (SAW) delivered a sermon during which our hearts trembled and our eyes shed tears.

So we said, “O Messenger of Allah! This sounds like a farewell sermon, would you counsel us please? He said: “I counsel you to have taqwa (fear) of Allah, and to listen and obey (your leaders), even if a slave were to be appointed as your Ameer (commander). Verily he who among you lives long shall witness many discrepancies, so you should hold onto my Sunnah and to the Sunnah of  Khulafa ar- Rashideen (the rightly guided Caliphs), cling to it stubbornly. And beware of newly invented matters (in the religion), for verily every bid’ah (innovation) is misguidance”.

The hadeeth was related by Tirmidhi, who said that it was a good and sound hadeeth. “Allah The Most High also  commended  the people of this generation thus: “Indeed, Allah was pleased with the believers when they gave their Bai’a (pledge) to you (O Muhammad SAW) under the tree, He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down As-Sakinah (calmness and tranquility) upon them, and He rewarded them with an imminent victory.”Quran 48:18. Now that we are in the 21st century, must we be doing things exactly the way it was done in the past by the salaf? Some individuals have horrible opinions on matters related to this; because they do generalise and mix up things such as religious obligations with day-to-day activities and the means to carry out some obligations. To them, every act of a Muslim must unconditionally tally with that of the Salaf. Otherwise, such act is Haraam (unlawful). Of course, no part of any Islamic rituals should be altered starting from Salaat, Zakaat, Fasting during Ramadan to performing Hajj. But when it comes to the means to performing some of the above-mentioned acts, there may be no harm in doing it in a way different from that of the Salaf provided the actual Ibadah is not tempered with. In the modern time for instance, Muslims all over the world do call to prayer using loud speakers, which were not available in the past. In the ancient times, people used to either trek to the Holy Land, or ride on Camels’ back, horses and donkeys to perform Hajj, for those were the only available means of transportation then. But in these modern times, the fastest, efficient and more convenient means has been adopted owing to advancement in technology. Even though Allah The Most High said in Quran 22:27: “And proclaim to mankind the Hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway (to perform Hajj.” Even the residents of Mecca today who live a few kilometres away from Munaa, Arafaa and Muzdalifah, the venues where the bulk of Hajj rites are duly observed, neither ride on animals nor trek. They do travel in more comfortable automobiles, talkless of foreigners from all over the world who go on pilgrimage by air.

Yet all the rites of Hajj still remain the same as when the Prophet was alive, but the old means of transportation are completely obsolete. Do these means of modern transportation enjoyed render their Hajj invalid? Another related issue is hanging posters with Quranic calligraphy on the walls, which some people condemned outright. That was not based on any proof from Kitab and Sunnah (Quran and Hadeeth), but the strongest proof they advanced for opposing it was that the Salaf did not do it. One wonders if these persons have ever visited the Holy Ka’bah in Mecca and seen the golden gate of the Sacred House and the black silk that covers the House and observed the various calligraphy works on them. Likewise in this direction is the Mosque of the Prophet (SAW) in Medina.

 We should fear Allah in our judgments and refrain from imposing our wish on others. Even The Apostle of Allah (SAW) might personally dislike some things but would never impose his wish on others. For instance, it was narrated that The Prophet (SAW) was once served a meal which contained the meat of a reptile belonging to lizard family known as “Dhabb” in Arabic. The Prophet ate the food, but declined from eating the meat; neither did he prevent others from eating it. When his host curiously asked whether it was forbidden to take it, he simply said: “this type of meat is alien to me so I personally detest it”. Nevertheless, to eat such meat is Sunnatic, for the prophet (SAW) only declined from eating it but yet sanctioned it. May we seize this opportunity to advise all our brothers when giving verdict on religious matters to be more scrupulous rather than base such verdicts on hearsay? The Prophet said: “Make things easy (for people) and avoid complicating (issues). Give good tidings (to people) and never scare them away (from Deen)”. An opinion of any Sheikh or scholar on any religious matter, no matter how great is not binding to be followed except with a sound proof from Quran or Hadeeth. Umar bin al- Khattab, the second Caliph’s opinion was once refuted by a woman; he instantly succumbed while still on the pulpit and said: “indeed, Umar has committed an error while the woman was right”. This scenario transpired when the Caliph decided to peg the bridal dowry, which he noticed was getting too high. The woman out of protest said:  “Why should the Caliph attempt to limit what Allah has freely awarded women? Referring to Quran 3: 20 which implies that one can give as much as Qintaar (a huge amount of gold) as dowry. By calculation, the worth of a Qintaar was far above the dowry Umar wanted to peg then. This story depicts how humble the past leaders were and the commitment of the followers. May Allah make it easy for us to emulate them; and may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon whom has been sent as mercy for mankind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *