The Thirty Eighth Narration: A man said at the Battle of Tabuk: “I have never seen anyone whose belly is hungrier; whose tongue lies more or who is more cowardly in fighting than these scholars of ours.”….

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The Thirty Eighth Narration

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma reports:


قال رجل في غزوة تبوك في مجلس يوما : ما رأيت مثل قرائنا هؤلاء لا أرغب بطونا ، ولا أكذب ألسنة ، ولا أجبن عند اللقاء ، فقال رجل في المجلس : كذبت ولكنك منافق لأخبرن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فبلغ ذلك النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ونزل القرآن ، قال عبد الله : فأنا رأيته متعلقا بحقب ناقة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم تنكبه الحاجرة وهو ، يقول : يا رسول الله : إنما كنا نخوض ونلعب سورة التوبة آية ورسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، يقول : أبالله وآياته ورسوله كنتم تستهزئون سورة التوبة آية

A man said at the Battle of Tabuk: “I have never seen anyone whose belly is hungrier; whose tongue lies more or who is more cowardly in fighting than these scholars of ours.”

A man in the gathering said to him: “You lie; rather, you are a hypocrite! I will inform the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, of what you have just said.”

This news reached Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and a verse was revealed. The man went to the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam when he had already mounted his camel, held on and said to him: “O Messenger of Allah! We were only conversing and playing; Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam replied, “Is it Allah and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking?” [1]


إِنَّمَا كُنَّا نَخُوْضُ وَنَلْعَبُ قُلْ أَبِاللَّهِ وَآيَاتِهِ وَرَسُوْلِهِ كُنْتُمْ تَسْتَهْزِئُوْنَ

“We were only conversing and playing.” Say, “Is it Allah and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking?”[2]


This narration is sound as recorded in Tafsir ibn Abi Hatim.


Commentary and Lessons Learnt from this Narration:

1. There is great virtue and honour in favour of the scholars of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum in this narration:


a. Revelation of Qur’an in their favour.

b. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and His Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam displayed anger on their behalf.

c. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala equated mocking them with mocking him.

d. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala refuted the falsities of the hypocrites.

e. Their repentance was not accepted; a sign of honour for the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum. Even though they held on to the bridle of the camel of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, they were subjected to humiliation due to their false accusations.


2. One who mocks any part of the faith turns renegade. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:


قَدْ كَفَرْتُم بَعْدَ إِيْمَانِكُمْ

You have disbelieved after your belief. [3]


Ibn al Taymiyyah says:


هذا نص على ان الاستهزاء بالله و أياته و رسوله

This categorically establishes that mocking Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, His signs, and Messenger is disbelief.[4]


3. Question: How does this result in disbelieve since it is done out of jest?

Answer: Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn al ‘Arabi writes:


لا يخلو أن يكون ما قالوه من ذلك جدا أو هزلا ، وهو كيفما كان كفر ، فإن الهزل بالكفر كفر لا خلاف فيه بين الأمة فإن التحقيق أخو العلم والحق ، والهزل أخو الباطل والجهل

Either it is said in jest or earnestly, both result in disbelief. Joking by articles of disbelief results in the same by the consensus of the ummah. Jokes result ignorance and bigotry whilst facts are by way of knowledge and truth.[5]


Ibn Sa’di writes in his Tafsir:


الاستهزاء بالله وآياته ورسوله كفر مخرج عن الدين؛ لأن أصل الدين مبني على تعظيم الله وتعظيم دينه ورسله، والاستهزاء بشيء من ذلك مناف لهذا الأصل ومناقض له أشد المناقضة

Joking in regards to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, His signs, or his Messenger is disbelief. It will result in one turning apostate as the building blocks of faith consist of respect for Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, his religion, and his Messengers. Mocking or joking regarding these goes against these important foundations and is a cause of disparity.[6]


4. Al Baghawi states in his Tafsir:


فإن قيل : كيف قال : كفرتم بعد إيمانكم ، وهم لم يكونوا مؤمنين؟ قيل : معناه : أظهرتم الكفر بعدما أظهرتم الإيمان

How is it that Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says, “You have disbelieved after your belief”, whereas they weren’t believers at all? The following answer has been given, “You brought to the fore your disbelief after having given the appearance of believers.”


Another possibility is that there were two groups. A group of the hypocrites who were mocking and a group of the Muslims who laughed at their mocking. Some books that deal with the reasons of revelation have alluded to this. This view is further strengthened by the verse that follows:


إِنْ نَّعْفُ عَنْ طَائِفَةٍ مِّنْكُمْ نُعَذِّبْ طَائِفَةً

If We pardon one faction of you – We will punish another faction[7]


Furthermore, Ibn Taymiyyah has branded them as hypocrites in al Sarim but has called them Muslims in his Fatawa. If one ponders over the reason of revelation as mentioned by the scholars, one will conclude that there were definitely two groups.


5. Question: Why were they barred from presenting an explanation whereas presenting an explanation is sought after in the Shari’ah?

Answer: This was due to their excuses being false. They were in reality disbelievers and their jesting had brought forth their true colours. This explanation is supported by Ibn Hayyan in his Tafsir.


6. Al Alusi writes in his Tafsir:


استدل بعضهم بهذه الآية بأن الجد واللعب في إظهار كلمة الكُفر سواء، ولا خلاف بين الأئمة في ذالك

Some have said that this verse is clear that statements of disbelief, be it in jest or earnest, are both the same. There is no difference amongst the scholars regarding this.


Al Alusi is referring to a group of scholars, amongst them, al Jassas, al Kiya al Harasi, and Abu al Farj ibn al Jawzi as is in Zad al Masir.


7. Question: How is it that Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala refused to accept their excuses but thereafter pardoned a faction?

Answer: The scholars have stated that the excuses of those whose hearts were plunged into hypocrisy were not accepted as their excuses were false. On the other hand, the repentance of those who had truly turned to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala was accepted. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:


إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِيْنَ فِيْ الدَّرْكِ الْأَسْفَلِ مِنَ النَّارِ وَلَنْ تَجِدَ لَهُمْ نَصِيْرًا

Indeed, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire – and never will you find for them a helper.


إِلَّا الَّذِيْنَ تَابُوْا وَأَصْلَحُوْا وَاعْتَصَمُوْا بِاللَّهِ وَأَخْلَصُوْا دِيْنَهُمْ لِلَّهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ مَعَ الْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ وَسَوْفَ يُؤْتِ اللَّهُ الْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ أَجْرًا عَظِيْمًا

Except for those who repent, correct themselves, hold fast to Allah, and are sincere in their religion for Allah, for those will be with the believers. And Allah is going to give the believers a great reward.[8]


8. When the honour of the scholars or pious are challenged it is the responsibility of the ummah to refute such by way of speech and books.


9. Reading the life stories of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum holds much blessings, knowledge, and guidance. The lives of other men pale in comparisons to theirs, especially those who have gone to lead the masses astray.


10. Students of knowledge and those treading the path of spirituality ought to follow the way of those who are complete in their knowledge and spirituality. This will result in unrivalled benefit to them.


11. The wisdom of the Imam dictates curtailing corporal punishment or death if such actions would lead to a greater harm to society. Unity is greater than meting out punishments. The lesser of the two evils should be realised and acted upon.


12. The Imam should have a wide array of penalties suitable for the different crimes that he presented with.


NEXT⇒ The Thirty Ninth Narration

[1] Tafsir ibn Abi Hatim, Hadith: 10549.

[2] Surah al Tawbah: 65.

[3] Surah al Tawbah: 66.

[4] Al Sarim, vol.2 pg. 70.

[5] Ahkam al Qur’an Ibn al ‘Arabi, vol. 2 pg. 543.

[6] Tafsir al Sa’di.

[7] Surah al Tawbah: 66.

[8] Surah al Nisa’ 145-146.

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