Also on the authority of ‘Umar, radiyallahu ‘anhu, who said:
“While we were one day sitting with the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, there appeared before us a man dressed in extremely white clothes and with very black hair. No traces of journeying were visible on him, and none of us knew him.
He sat down close by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, rested his knee against his thighs, and said, O Muhammad! Inform me about Islam.” Said the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, “Islam is that you should testify that there is no deity save Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, that you should perform salah (ritual prayer), pay the zakah, fast during Ramadan, and perform Hajj (pilgrimage) to the House (the Ka’bah at Makkah), if you can find a way to it (or find the means for making the journey to it).” Said he (the man), “You have spoken truly.”
We were astonished at his thus questioning him and telling him that he was right, but he went on to say, “Inform me about iman (faith).” He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, “It is that you believe in Allah and His angels and His Books and His Messengers and in the Last Day, and in fate (qadar), both in its good and in its evil aspects.” He said, “You have spoken truly.”
Then he (the man) said, “Inform me about Ihsan.” He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, ” It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you.” He said, “Inform me about the Hour.” He (the Messenger of Allah) said, “About that the one questioned knows no more than the questioner.” So he said, “Well, inform me about the signs thereof (i.e. of its coming).” Said he, “They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, that you will see the barefooted ones, the naked, the destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings.” Thereupon the man went off.
I waited a while, and then he (the Messenger of Allah) said, “O ‘Umar, do you know who that questioner was?” I replied, “Allah and His Messenger know better.” He said, “That was Jibril. He came to teach you your religion.””
Al-Imam Muslim says: Towards the end of his life, Abdullah bin ‘Umar (the son of ‘Umar bin al-Khattab) was told by two people that a new Islamic sect had emerged from Iraq. They were called Al-Qadariah and they denied al-qadar (fate). Thus Abdullah bin ‘Umar narrated this hadith which mentions qadar as one of the pillars of Iman to refute the misconception of this sect.
This hadith teaches the adab (ethics) of seeking knowledge:
- We should be clean and wear clean clothes.
- We should sit properly and closer to the speaker.
- Asking questions for better understanding.
- Seek knowledge from the right source/authority.
The method of seeking knowledge is through asking questions:
- The type of questions we ask should be meaningful – questions that will lead to valuable knowledge and good action.
- Asking good questions will result in better learning as well as teaching. Those who are present when the questions are asked will also learn from the answers – thus, the questioner is teaching the others.
- When Ibn Abbas, one of the greatest Scholars among the Sahabahs, was asked how he obtained all his knowledge, he replied: “with an inquisitive tongue (i.e. he always asked questions) and a contemplating heart”.
- In many hadiths the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, himself will start by asking questions before he imparts with knowledge. Asking questions will prepare the mind/heart so that it will be ready for the answers/knowledge – ready to absorb and learn. In this hadith he calls Jibril “the questioner” which implies full appreciation and encouragement of asking questions specially the ones that will lead to gaining more knowledge.
- In the Quran itself there are more than 1,200 questions – to serve different purposes – to provoke the mind of the reader and force it to indulge in thinking about what he/she reads.
Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi