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4. Muhammad as Model and Guide

The Prophet is not only the founder and legislator of the community: he is the model for Muslims. It is accepted as axiomatic that every act he made after the beginning of the Revelation was preserved by God from error; had it

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not been so, then the Revelation itself would be cast into doubt, a thing God could never have permitted. There-fore, Muhammad's slightest act was rightly guided, and of moral value. For traditional Muslims, everything the Prophet did is a part of his sunna: his treatment of children, the way he broke his fast, how he cleaned his teeth and wore his beard, are all worthy of study and emulation.


Bukhārī . . . from Abū Hurayra: "The Messenger of God said: 'While a man was walking on the road, his thirst grew strong and he found a well and descended into it and drank and was leaving, when he saw a dog hanging out its tongue and licking the ground from thirst, and the man said, 'This dog's thirst is like the thirst I had,' and he went into the well again, filled his shoe with water, and held it between his teeth (while he climbed out), and gave the dog to drink. And God approved of his act, and pardoned his sins.' They said, 'What, Messenger of God, shall we be rewarded for what we do for animals?' He replied, 'Yes. There is a reward on every living creature.'" 30


Bukhārī . . . from ‘A’isha: "A man asked permission to speak to the Prophet, and when the Prophet saw him he said, 'Unhappy the brother of his clan! Unhappy the son of his clan! (What a bad fellow!)' Then when the man sat down the Prophet looked cheerfully on him and spoke kindly to him. When the man went away, ‘A’isha said, 'Messenger of God, when you saw him you said this and that, then to his face you were cheerful and kindly!' And the Messenger of God said, 'Why, ‘A’isha, when have you ever seen me act grossly with people? Verily, the worst place on the resurrection day in the sight of God will be that of the man whom people avoided fearing his mischief.'" 31


Bukhārī . . . from ‘Abdallah ibn ‘Umar: "The Messenger of God said, 'When any man says to his brother 'Thou infidel!' one of the two deserves the name.'" 32

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Bukhārī . . . from Ibn ‘Abbās: "A woman came to the Prophet and said, 'My mother vowed to go on the pilgrimage, and died before fulfilling it. Should I make the pilgrimage in her place?' He said, 'Yes, do it. If your mother had had a debt, would you have paid it?' She said, 'Yes.' 'Then pay what she owes, for God is more worthy than anyone that we should keep our promises to Him.'" 33


Bukhārī . . . from Anas ibn Mālik: "Three persons came to the houses of the Prophet's wives to ask about his religious practice, and when they told them, it was as if they belittled it. And they said, 'In what do we differ from the Prophet? Yet God has pardoned all his past and future faults.' One of them said, 'As for me, I shall pray all night long.' Another said, 'I shall fast every day continuously.' The third said, 'I shall draw apart from women and never marry.' Then the Messenger of God went to them and said: 'Are you those who said thus and so? But I dread God more than you and revere him more, yet I fast and break the fast; I pray and I sleep too, and I marry women. Whosoever turns from my practice [sunna] is none of mine.'" 34


Bukhārī . . . from Abū Sa‘īd al-Khudrī: "We took some women captives, and in coition practised withdrawal [kunnā na‘zilu] so as not to have offspring from them. We asked the Messenger of God about this and he said, 'Is that what you did?' Then he said three times: 'There is not a soul who is to be born for the day of resurrection, but that it will be born.'" 35 [This ḥadīth is used today to overcome objections to birth control.]


Bukhārī . . . from ‘Abdallah ibn Ja‘far ibn Abī Tab: "I saw the Messenger of God eating fresh dates with cucumbers." 36


Bukhārī . . . from Abū Hurayra: "The Prophet said, 'The time draws near, and the good works grow less, and avarice appears, and the ḥarj increases.' They said, 'What is the ḥarj?' And he said, 'It is murder, murder!'" 37

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Bukhārī . . . from Anas ibn Mālik: "I served the Prophet for ten years, and never did he say 'Uff!' (disgustedly) either for what I had done or left undone." 38


Bukhārī . . . from Usāma ibn Zayd: "One of the Prophet's daughters sent him this message while we were with him. 'My son is at the point of death.' We said, 'There is no god but God!' and he sent her as follows: 'Peace be upon you. What God takes is His, and what He gives is His. Everything is determined by Him, therefore take this into account and be patient.' Then she sent adjuring him to come, so the Prophet went, and we went with him. And the child was placed on the Prophet's lap, who was trembling, while his eyes flowed tears. Then Sa‘d said to him, 'What is this, Messenger of God?' He said, 'It is compassion, which God places as He will in the hearts of His servants. God has no mercy on those who do not have mercy.'" 39


Muslim . . . from Abū Dharr: "Some of the Companions of the Prophet said to him, 'Messenger of God, the rich have borne away the rewards. They pray as we do, fast as we do, and besides they make alms with the surplus of their wealth!' He answered, 'And how has God not given you wherewithal to make alms? To say 'Glory to God' is an alms; to say 'God is most great!' is an alms, and similarly, 'Praise be to God. There is no god but God!' Whatever you bid to the good, it is an alms, when you reject the disapproved, it is an alms. Each time you perform the conjugal act, it is an alms.' They said, 'What? We can satisfy our fleshly appetites and gain a reward?' He answered, 'Is not the one who satisfies his appetites illicitly guilty of a sin? Just so, one who satisfies them lawfully gains a reward.'" 40


Bukhārī . . . from Anas: "The Prophet said: 'No one has tasted the sweetness of faith who does not love his fellow-man, not loving him for anything but God's sake, or would not find being thrown into a fire preferable to infidelity after God had delivered him from that, and to whom God and His prophet are not dearer than all other things.'" 41


87:30 Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 117.

87:31 Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 121.

87:32 Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 139.

87:33 Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 431.

87:34 Ibid., Vol. III, pp. 410, 411.

87:35 Ibid., Vol. III, p. 448.

87:36 Ibid., Vol. III, p. 506.

87:37 p. 245 Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 368.

87:38 Ibid., Vol. III, p. 122.

87:39 Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 43.

87:40 Cited in Forty Hadiths of al-Nāwāwī also Cf. G. H. Bousquet, Classiques de l’Islamologie (Algiers, 1950).

87:41 Al-Bukhārī, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 123.

Next: 5. The Preservation of the Prophetic Practice (Sunna)