Hadith 20

Chapter: The saying of the Prophet, “I am the most knowledgeable of you about Allah”

True knowledge is an action of the heart as Allah says, “Rather He will call you to account for that which your hearts have earned.” (2:225)

Muhammad Ibn Salaam narrated from ‘Abdah from Hisham from his father that ‘Aisha said, “Whenever the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه و سلم ordered them (the people) with a command, he ordered them according to their capabilities. They said, “Messenger of Allah! We are not like you. Allah has forgiven you of your past and future wrongdoings.” [They wanted to do more difficult deeds.] He became angry until it was apparent on his face. Then he said, “I am the one amongst you with the most taqwa (piety, and fear of Allah) and the most knowledgeable of Allah!”

Ibn Hajar’s explanation

His saying: “I am the most knowledgeable (أعلمكم) of you” also comes from the narration of Abu Dhar which has various chains. In Al-Aseele’s narration the wording used was, “I am the most familiar (أعرفكم) amongst you” which may have been narrated by meaning, (rather than wording) as is the opinion of the author (Bukhari).

His saying, “True knowledge is an action of the heart.” Allah says, “Rather He will call you to account for that which your hearts have earned.” (2:225)

The verse is used here as proof that the utterance of the tongue is not sufficient to establish eemaan without being joined with belief of the heart.[1] It is what resides in the heart which is accounted for, as in the parable made by Zaid Ibn Aslam who said, “It is like one person telling another, ‘if you do such and such then I am a disbeliever’. Allah will not judge him merely based upon his words unless his heart actually disbelieves.’”

  • The correlation between the verse and the hadith becomes clear in that their meaning is a refutation of the belief of the Karramiyyah who say that eemaan is established through utterance alone.

  • This is proof that eemaan increases and decreases as the Prophet’s صلى الله عليه و سلم saying, “I am the most knowledgeable amongst you about Allah” illustrates that people are of various levels of knowledge about Allah, some being more knowledgeable than others, while he was at the highest level.

  • Knowledge about Allah includes his names, attributes, rulings, and all that applies to those categories.

Benefit

The imam of the haramain[2] said, “The scholars are in agreement about the obligation of knowing Allah but they differed about which aspect is foremost.” Some scholars said that the disbelievers defended their religion and fought wars for it; therefore their cessation of defending and fighting for their religion is proof that the truth became apparent to them. This was considered sufficient evidence of their reverting to the recognition of Allah. Allah says,

فأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفاً فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَر النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا

So direct your face toward the religion of pure Islamic monotheism, inclining to truth. The fitrah (inclination) of Allah upon which He has created [all] people.

And what came in the hadith, “Every child is born upon fitrah (disposition to believe in Allah)” is proof against the entire argument in the first place, as will be expounded upon in the chapter of tawheed.

  • It has been said that this issue originated from the mu’tazilla.

Imam Nawawi said, “The verse proves that the correct view is that the actions (beliefs) of the heart are taken to account (by Allah) once they settle within it.” As for the statement of the prophet, “Allah pardons for my nation (my followers) whatever passes through the heart without turning into speech or action.” This accounts for anything that doesn’t remain in the heart as understood from his saying “action” since belief is the action of the heart.”

Her (‘Aisha) saying, “Whenever the Messenger of Allah ordered them (the people) with a command”

The prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم instructed his followers with easy actions rather than difficult ones for fear that they would not remain consistent in performing difficult deeds. He صلى الله عليه و سلم would also perform the deeds that he called to leading the companions to request more difficult deeds because they felt the necessity to increase and intensify their actions in order to raise their own ranks, although they didn’t feel that it was necessary for the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم to perform more difficult deeds (as his rank was already the highest of all the people).

They said, “We are not like you” which is when the prophet became angry only because having reached a higher rank should not cause a person to reduce the (good) actions that he performs, rather it compels an increase in action based on thankfulness to Allah.  As he said in another narration, (when asked why he stands so long in night prayer when all of his sins have been forgiven) “should I not be a thankful slave.” So his objective was to give them easy acts of worship to perform and remain persistent upon. He said, “The most beloved action to Allah is that which is most consistent.”

Benefits of the hadith

  1. Good deeds raise a person’s rank and erase his sins. The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم did not deny their request for more deeds for this reason (not wanting them to attain higher ranks), but did so for another purpose.

  2. Attaining the fruits and benefits of worship gives a person more reason to remain consistent upon it, hoping to preserve those benefits (in his life) and aspiring to increase and reach higher levels.

  3. The obligation to have determination to stop at the bounds that Allah set, while considering that which is easy and agreeable to the Shariah to be better than that which is difficult and opposed to it.

  4. It is very important to have clear intent during acts of worship and establish consistency, rather than going overboard and then leaving the acts of worship all together.

  5. Bringing attention to the strong inclination the companions of the prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم had to do acts of worship, and their requesting an increase in good.

  6. The permissibility of becoming angry when Allah’s legislation is opposed.

  7. The permissibility of mentioning one’s own good qualities, if necessary, without boasting or exaggerating.

  8. The prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم was given completeness of humanly characteristics, both knowledge and action as pointed out in the hadith “I am the most knowledgeable amongst you” and in his saying, “The most fearful of Allah amongst you.” In the narration of Abu Usama recorded by Al-Isma’ele, “By Allah, I am the most righteous and most God-fearing amongst you.”

This is one of the narrations recorded by Bukhari which was not recorded by Muslim. This narration is not recorded anywhere with any other chain of narration, rather this is the only chain.


[1]The people of knowledge have stated that the first obligation is to establish the declaration of faith (La-Ilaha-Il-Allah) by means of knowledge and action, this being the first thing that our leader and example, the prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم, called to.  His message began by calling the people to bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship other than Allah. When he sent Mu’aath to Yemen he told him, “First call the people to bear witness there is no deity worthy of worship other than Allah.” Therefore, tawheed is a condition for the acceptability of all acts of worship, as indicated in Allah’s words, Had they joined in worship others with Allah, all their actions would have gone in vein.”

[2] His name is Abul Ma`ali Al Juwainy (Abdul Malik Ibn Al Sheikh Abi Muhammad Abdullah Ibn Abi Ya`qoub Yusuf Ibn Abdullah Ibn Yusuf Ibn Muhammad) Al Faqeeh Al Shaf`I known as Imamul Haramain.

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