What Is Zuhd and What is Not – Shaykhul Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah [Allaah's Mercy on him]
Majmoo' Al-Fataawa 2/425

Shaykhul Islam was asked about a man who learned the Islamic jurisprudence, knew what Allâh commands and forbids then he became abstemious, shunning the world, wealth, family and children out of the fear of deriving means of sustenance from haram and doubtful sources, and because of his fear for the Hereafter and his desire for the pleasure of Allâh and His Messenger [salaLlâhu alayhi wa sallam]. Thus he began to wander on land and cities. Is the man right in his severing ties of kinship and in his wandering as mentioned?

Answer: All praise to Allâh alone. The legislated abstemiousness [Az-Zuhd Al-Mashroo’] is shunning everything that will not be of value in the Hereafter and having trust of the heart in what is with Allâh. This is as it has come in the hadith of Tir’midhî: ‘Abstemiousness is not declaring what is haram to be halâl nor waste of wealth it is rather when you have more trust in what is Allâh than what you have, and when you have more interest in the rewards from any affliction that befalls you, such that you desire that they remain for you.’ [The hadith is weak as said by Ash-Shaykh Al-Albânî Daîf Al-Jâmi As-Saghîr, 3194]. This is because Allâh says: ‘...so that you will not lose hope as a result of what has missed you or that you are over joyful with what you have...’ That is the description of the heart.

As for what is apparent, [az-Zuhd] is shunning the excess things that are not useful in obedience to Allâh in terms of food, clothing, wealth and other things as Al-Imâm Ahmad [rahima-hu Llaah] said: ‘[Az-Zuhd] is taking food but not [excessive] food, putting on cloth but not [flamboyant] cloth and being patient in the days of little provisions.’

The standard of measurement for all that is the character of the Messenger of Allâh [salaLlâhu alayhi wa sallam] as it has come authentically from him that he [salaLlâhu alayhi wa sallam] used to say: ‘The best of speech is the Speech of Allâh, the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad and the worst of matters are the innovations [in Islam]; every innovation is misguidance.’

It was from his character [salaLlâhu alayhi wa sallam] that he would not reject whatever was available [no matter how little or less delicious] or desire what was unavailable. He would wear cloth he could lay his hands on whether cotton or wool or any other one. Though he loved cotton-made more than other types of cloth. Whenever he was told that any of his Companions was about to go above board in abstemiousness or acts of worship when they say: ‘Who among us is like the Messenger of Allâh?’ The Messenger of Allâh [salaLlâhu alayhi wa sallam], whenever he heard such, would be angry and say: ‘By Allâh, I am the most fearing of Allâh amongst you so also the most knowledgeable of the limits set by Him.’

He once heard that one of his Companions said: ‘As for me, I shall continue to fast; I will not stop doing so’ Another one said, ‘As for me, I shall continue to stand up in prayers [at night], I shall not sleep.’ The other said: ‘As for me, I shall not marry.’ Another one said: ‘As for me, I shall not eat mutton.’ The Messenger of Allâh [salaLlâhu alayhi wa sallam] said: ‘But I fast and break, stand up in prayer and sleep, marry women and eat mutton. Whoever turns away from my Sunnah is not from me.’

Therefore turning away from the family and children is not what is loved by Allâh and His Messenger; it is also not from the Deen of the Prophets.

Allâh has said:

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلًا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُمْ أَزْوَاجًا وَذُرِّيَّةً

And indeed We sent Messengers before you, and made for them wives and offspring. [Ar-Ra’d: 38].

Spending over one’s family as well as striving to feed them could be obligatory sometimes and meritorious the other time. Therefore how can shunning what is obligatory or meritorious could be from the Deen?

So also is the travelling in the towns and cities, that is short of Sharî’ah reason, as some ascetics do today [this may include the Tableeghis of our own time] is prohibited. Al-Imâm Ahmad [rahima-hu Llaah] said: ‘Wandering about the land [for religious reasons] is not part of Islam in any way neither is it from the practice of the Prophets nor the righteous.’

As for Siyaahah mentioned in the Qur’ân such as the following:

التَّائِبُونَ الْعَابِدُونَ الْحَامِدُونَ السَّائِحُونَ

(The believers) who repent to Allâh, who worship Him, who praise Him, who are Saa’ihoon... [Taubah: 112]

مُسْلِمَاتٍ مُؤْمِنَاتٍ قَانِتَاتٍ تَائِبَاتٍ عَابِدَاتٍ سَائِحَاتٍ ثَيِّبَاتٍ وَأَبْكَارًا

‘...Muslims, believers, obedient to Allâh, turning to Allâh in repentance, worshipping Allâh sincerely, Saa’ihaat, previously married and virgins. [Tahrîm: 5]

What is intended by the word, siyaahah in the Verses is not the innovated practice of wandering [known today]. Allâh described the women whom the Mesnsger of Allâh [salaLlâhu alayhi wa sallam] could marry as thus, it is known that a married woman cannot wander about the land [for religious reasons]. What is rather intended by the word is either of these two things: fasting [or devoutness]...’

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