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Characteristics of the Rightly Guided

 

Sh Abdur Rahman As-Sudais – 20 Muharram 1438

His Eminence Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Sudais – May Allah protect him – delivered this Friday Khutbah entitled “Characteristics of the Approach of Ahl Al-Sunnah Wa-l-Jama’ah” in which he talked about the most salient characteristics of the right approach, namely that of Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jama’ah. He warned against capitalising on differences, controversies, and zealous partisanships, especially in these difficult times.

Praise is truly due to Allah! We praise Him, seek His assistance, pray Him for forgiveness, and return unto Him in repentance. We praise Him –Be He glorified− for His abundant blessings and considerable bounties.

(The Sheikh includes one line of poetry which can be rendered as follows): “Praise be to Allah! How many favours our Creator has bestowed on us, For which none can show proper gratitude!”

I bear witness that there is no deity except Allah alone with no partner. He has privileged us with an enlightening faith that has overwhelmed the whole universe with its sublime and illuminating nature. I also bear witness that our Prophet and Master, Muhammad, is the Servant and Messenger of Allah. He made the landmarks of civilisational advancement crystallise and adeptly established its signposts. O Allah! Send Your fragrant, blessed, and interminable Salat (Graces, Honours, and Mercy) and Peace upon him, his Family – the select and immaculate among all creatures in moral conduct − his noble and virtuous Companions whose resounding fame reached the peak of glory, the tabi’in (the contemporaries of the Companions of the Prophet [May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him] after his death), and all those who follow in their footsteps until the Day of Judgement!

Now then,

O Servants of Allah! Observe Taqwa (fear) of Allah, for Allah will bestow His divine protection and care upon those who observe Taqwa vis-à-vis Him.

O you who believe! Keep your duty to Allâh and fear Him, and speak (always) the truth. He will direct you to do righteous good deeds and will forgive you your sins. And whosoever obeys Allâh and His Messenger (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) he has indeed achieved a great achievement (i.e. he will be saved from the Hell-fire and made to enter Paradise). [Al-Ahzab: 70-71]

(The Sheikh includes two lines of poetry which can be rendered as follows):

Strictly adhere to taqwa of the Compassionate and seek His support,
Surely, He will bestow on you miraculous signs of His divine help.
Taqwa is a strong fortress for its adherents,
And a shield protecting them against mishaps and calamities.

O Muslims!

Amidst the emerging challenges and the mounting crises characterising the modern era –along with the series of successive changes and the escalation of conflicts− some hearts are affected by the heavy, ravenous, and blurring curtains of dubious falsities and unrestrained pervert thoughts which impede the intellectual and civilisational progress of the Ummah. This imposes occasional moments of serious mediation on the need to rectify the situation, identify the real milestones, explain objectives and slogans, and clarify the outstandingly translucent approach adopted by our virtuous salaf (model generations of early Muslims), Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jama’ah –May Allah be pleased with them all− for they are the best of all mankind and amongst all human races throughout history. In the two Sahih books (two collections of hadith by Imam Muslim and Imam Bukhari), ibn Mass’ood –May Allah be pleased with him− narrated that the Prophet –May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him– had said: “The best amongst mankind is my generation, then the two succeeding generations.”

O Ummah of Islam!

Recorded evidence of the role of historical bonds and deeply-rooted cultural belonging in cementing unity attests that pure Islamic faith is the exclusive guarantee of assembling the scattered beads of the necklace, harmonising the mutually repellent members of the community, and moderating conflicting opinions. This is, indeed, the first landmark of the enlightening and radiant approach traced by our virtuous ancestors from among the pious Companions of Prophet Muhammad –May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him– and the loyal Tabi’in.

What crowns this important characteristic is pure tawheed (monotheism) of Allah and dedication to Him in both speech and action.
And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allâh, and worship none but Him Alone (abstaining from ascribing partners to Him), … [Al-Bayyinah: 5]

Another feature is the precept of referring to the Holy Qur’an and the Noble Sunnah in all matters –be they minor or major− in accordance with Allah’s command:

…And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allâh and His Messenger (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), if you believe in Allâh and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination. [Al-Nissa’: 59]

(The Sheikh includes two lines of poetry which can be rendered as follows):

In all matters pertaining to your life, hold fast to the Revelation,
Rather than to the fake decorum of hallucinations!
Champion the Book of Allah and the Sunnah teachings
Coming from he who was sent with the Qur’an!

May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon our Prophet, Muhammad!

Hence, it becomes clear –May Allah protect you− that there is no problem in determining the term “Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jama’ah” as it encompasses –thank Allah− the followers of Islam and the millah (the creed) who adhere to the Book and the Sunnah according to an approach which places itself above the base motives of sectarianism, denominationalism, fanatical affiliations, and partisanship. Therefore, to restrict this enlightening approach to a given denomination, jurisprudential trend, location, or time would be quite short-sighted, reductionist, incognizant, and senseless. Adherents to this approach are the triumphant and salvaged group. Evidence to this is found in the hadith of the Select Prophet, Muhammad –May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him– where he said: “Those who will adopt the same approach as I and my Companions have adopted.” [A sound hadith reported via an authentic chain of narration by Al-Tabarani in his book entitled Al-Awsat and by al-Hakem in his book entitled al-Mustadrak]

Brothers and sisters in Islam!

Among the bright characteristics of the approach of Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jama’ah ‒May Allah bless their souls− is the ritual which is the most peculiar to them; it is that of adherence to the Jama’ah (mainstream community of Muslims), along with its corollary creed of acquiescence and obedience. It is a typical observance which represents a salient characteristic of their beautiful approach. Allah –Exalted be He− says:

And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allâh (i.e. this Qur’ân), and be not divided among yourselves, … [Al Imran: 103]

Ibn Mass’ood –May Allah be pleased with him− said: “The Rope of Allah is the Jama’ah.” In the same vein, Ibn Omar –May Allah be pleased with him and his father [Omar]− narrated: “The Messenger of Allah –May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him– said: “My Ummah will never reach consensus on a falsity; therefore, stick to the Jama’ah, for the Hand of Allah is with the Jama’ah.” [The sources of this hadith were traced by al-Tabarani as having a sound chain of narration]

Therefore, the righteous salaf –May Allah be pleased with them, Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jama’ah‒ and all those who follow in their footsteps and adhere to their guidance are safe from the twisted tracks of division, divergence, schism, and categorisation which would tear apart their orderly assembly and disperse their distinguished unity.

O Ummah of faith!

Again, among the greatest characteristics of the Salafi approach −that of Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jama’ah− is being middle-of-the-road and moderate in what they say. Being middle-of-the-road means adhering to the guidance of the best of all creatures –May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him– in private and in public, following the example of the rightly-guided Caliphs as well as the rest of the Companions –May Allah be pleased with them all‒ avoiding bid’ahs (innovations in religion) and acting contrary to the whimsical and the misguided.

And the first to embrace Islâm of the Muhâjirûn (those who migrated from Makkah to Al-Madinah) and the Ansâr (the citizens of Al-Madinah who helped and gave aid to the Muhâjirûn) and also those who followed them exactly (in Faith). Allâh is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. [Al-Tawbah: 100]

In the verse above, there is a clear indication that one should follow in the footsteps of the righteous Salaf, including the Prophet’s Companions –May Allah be pleased with them–both the Muhajireen and the Ansar[The Muhajireen are the Muslims who migrated with Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) from Makkah to Madinah, whereas the Ansar are the Muslims who welcomed and supported them in Madinah. ]‒ since they are the most honest, erudite, and the most knowledgeable about Allah’s religion.

Nonetheless, adhering to the Salaf’s approach does not contradict with the use of our age’s modern methods and mechanisms, benefiting from its contemporary data and techniques, by way of keeping up with new information and gains and by way of establishing harmony between the constant and the variable (in our religion), and between tradition and modernity.
O you believers!

It is a pity to notice that, in the tardy stages of history, numerous people from the Muslim creed have relinquished their hold on the approach of the Salaf. Thus, they have internalised diverse flaws imported from misguided and erratic sources, and deviated from their diligent ancestors’ approach characterised by clarity and virtuosity. As a result, they have thrown themselves into the quagmire of blind afflictions and reckless wars. In fact, they have dashed some of the youth of the Ummah into the pits of sedition and conflict under sightless banners and Jahiliyyah calls (pre-Islamic practices), thus clearly straying from the track of moderation and temperateness as well as from the canons of Sharia, and marring the sacred ritual of Jihad for the cause of Allah, which is the uppermost ritual in Islam.

Even worse, they have induced them into perpetrating terrorist acts, such as destroying properties and blasting mosques, universities and hospitals. In so doing, they have been acting contrary to the authentic religious texts (the Qur’an and the Sunnah), the universals of common sense, and the glossy approach of the Salaf’ –without ever bothering about the intents and purposes of the Sharia and the guidance of the religious policy.

There are others whose acts in the herein have led them astray while they still cherish the false impression that they are performing good deeds.[The expression in boldface is an indirect citation from the Holy Qur’an, surat Al-Kahf, verse 104.
] They brandish vacuous menaces, fall into the pitfalls of fanaticism and threats, get engrossed in their whimsical temptations, and indulge in errant behaviour. Their words are listed among the gravest of major sins and their actions are counted among the clearest of crimes.

In reality, is it honest, judicious, or sensible to capitalise on disasters and crises on account of political inclinations, intellectual orientations, slogans, campaigns, and defamatory accusations? This is sheer renunciation and aversion. In fact, Allah’s religion is a middle ground between excessiveness and aversion, for the Ummah can never be served and its interests can never be protected by a traitor, an ignorant, stupid, averting, obscene, cowardly, or worthless person. Whoever adopts intransigence demotivates people and whoever behaves leniently reconciles them with each other. Thus, the ideal attitude resides in following our Salaf.

O Ummah of Islam!

Still, among the great characteristics and the ideal values of Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jama’ah there is their linking creed with ethics and values. Besides, they sanctify human blood and distance themselves from the paths of violence, takfeer (accusing others with disbelief), rebellion against the Imam (ruler), taking arms against the Ummah, and the renunciation of the biding religious bai’ah (pledge of allegiance to the ruler) in times of ease and difficulty and in pleasure and displeasure as required by faith, worship, and devotional commitment. Such denounced disavowal might be prompted by mundane interests, materialistic deals, or ideological orientations.

It should be known that the religious precept stipulates that the rule of the Imam over his subjects is conditioned by public interest and by his commitment to truth, integrity, and justice in matters pertaining to relatives or strangers and to friends or foes:

… and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, … [Al-Ma’idah: 8]

Again, some more of the characteristics of Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jama’ah are the observance of chastity in words against the inducement of sedition and the promotion of tendentious rumours. They take interest in the shared concerns of their Ummah, feeling for the oppressed among their fellow Muslims everywhere, and praying for them, especially in situations similar to what is happening nowadays in Sham, Iraq, and Yemen. They reject all that would contradict the Qur’an and Sunnah. Imam al-Shafi’i –May Allah bless his soul– was right when he said: “Down with everything contradicting the command of the Prophet –May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him! No opinion or standard of judgement could be legitimate match to it. Allah did spare us the excuse in this regard through his words –May Allah’s Salat and Peace be upon him!”

Imam al-Shatibi –May Allah bless his soul– said: “The legitimate goal behind the legislation of Shariah law is to free the mukallaf[ He or she is a sane adult who is charged with religious and other duties and is accountable for carrying them out.] from the shackles of his own whims so that he can be a servant of Allah by choice in the same way he is so by necessity.”

(The Sheikh quotes one line of poetry which can be rendered as follows):

Ignominy is caprice, only with a reversed meaning,
For once you become capricious you will ignominy meet.

I seek refuge with Allah from the accursed Satan:

Indeed in the Messenger of Allâh (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for (the Meeting with) Allâh and the Last Day, and remembers Allâh much. [Al-Ahzab: 21]

May Allah bless you and me by Qur’an and Sunnah, and grant you and me the benefit of its signs and wisdom! Having said this, I pray Allah, the Almighty, the Majestic to forgive me, you, and all Muslims; so pray Him for forgiveness and repent unto Him, for our Lord is Most Forgiving for those who turn to Him in repentance!

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