Refuting Ghamidi Statement on Muwatta and the Return of Eisa by Waqar Cheema
In recent times Mr. Javed Ahmed Ghamidi has come up as the champion of fresh and unorthodox interpretation of Islam reaching out to Pakistani audience. It‟s not the time to dwell and comment on the background and reasoning for the peculiar deliberate and characteristic non-conformist approach. However, we must see what „proofs‟ such people bring up to make their case on different issues.
There is a video clip of Mr. Ghamidi in which answering a question he comes up with different arguments to assert that Eisa –peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- died a natural death and there is nothing authentic to prove his return near the End of the Times.
His arguments are:
1- The word Qur‟an uses regarding „Eisa –peace be upon him- is “tawaffa” which simply refers to death.
2- Had Eisa –peace be upon him- been physically raised up to the heavens alive and if he were to return Allah would have mentioned it “clearly” in so and so verses of the Qur’an.
3- There is no hadith narration about the return of Eisa – peace be upon him- in Imam Malik‟s (d. 179 AH) Muwatta, “the first book of hadith”, even though Imam Malik mentioned a narration about „Eisa –peace be upon him- otherwise. It is only in the books of Hadith compiled after Muwatta that reports about the return of „Eisa –peace be upon him- “started appearing.” While the first two arguments are standard Qadiani/Ahmadi arguments often refuted by the scholars of sunnah, in this paper we are interested in the third argument and will see how much water it holds.
2. Is Malik‘s Muwatta the earliest Hadith compilation (now extant)?
Every student of Hadith knows Muwatta was not the first book of Hadith. There were numerous collections produced by the Companions and the Followers (tabi’un) well before Muwatta. In fact it is not even the earliest one compiled of those extant today. Ma’mar bin Rashid’s (d. 153 AH) book Al-Jami’ was compiled earlier than Muwatta and is now published. Hadith scholar Abu Talib al-Makki (d. 386 AH) wrote:
”… the first systematic Islamic work was the book of („Abd al-Malik) Ibn Jurayj (d. 150/767) concerning the traditions, and the exegetical texts of Mujahid and ‘Ata‘ (ibn Abi Rabah) and the companions of Ibn „Abbas in Mecca. Then there was the book of Ma‘mar ibn Rashid as-San‘ani (d. 152/769) in Yemen, in which he gathered widely dispersed sunnas according to thematic chapters. Then came Malik ibn Anas‘ Book of the Level Path (Kitab al-Muwatta‘) in Medina, concerning religious law …”1
This is a clear testimony that the book of Ma‟mar was compiled earlier than Muwatta of Imam Malik.
In his PhD dissertation completed in 1966, Shaykh Mustafa al-A‟zami mentioned manuscripts of Al-Jami in the collections of Faid Allah Affendi and Isma‟il Sa‟ib. 2
It was later published with the research of Shaykh Habibur Rahman Al-A‟zami as an appendix to al-Musannaf of „Abdul Razzaq through whom it has reached us. 3
3. Hadiths about return of Eisa Ahle Salam in al-Jami’ of Ma‘mar bin Rashid
In this work of Imam Ma‟mar we find reports about the return of Eisa – may Allah bless him- in a dedicated chapter. The chapter about the descent of Eisa – may Allah bless him- has seven narrations. 4 Here for the sake of brevity we quote only the first narration of the chapter.
(Ma‟mar narrates) from Al-Zuhri – Sa‟id bin Al-Musayyib that he heard Abu Huraira saying: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said: “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, (Eisa) the Son of Maryam will soon descend amongst you as a just ruler and leader and will break the Cross and kill the pig and abolish Jizya. There will be abundance of money and no-one will accept charity.”5
The fact that the same report narrated from Al-Zuhri by Al-Layth is recorded in Sahih Bukhari 6 with the same wording kills the de facto attack by Mr. Ghamidi on the authenticity of the most canonical hadith collections. What he insinuates to have “started appearing” in “later works like Bukhari and Muslim” is found recorded verbatim in a collection compiled earlier than Muwatta which he calls the “first hadith book.”
4. One would not even expect Muwatta to have narrations about the descent of Eisa Ahle Salam
The truth is no serious student, let alone a true scholar of any degree, would even expect Muwatta to have narrations about the descent of „Eisa –may Allah bless him. The reason lies in the fact that Muwatta was compiled fundamentally as a compendium of reports of legal import. In the above quoted comment Abu Talib al-Makki said:
“Then came Malik ibn Anas‟ Book of the Level Path (Kitab al–Muwatta‟) in Medina, concerning religious law …”Likewise Al-A‟zami writes:
“In the second century … books covering almost all the legal problems began to appear. The book of Imam Malik called Al-Mu’tta belongs here. It was arranged according to chapters on law covering the whole range of human life, from worship, zakat, hajj, marriage, divorce, to agriculture and trade etc.”7
For this reason it is at times referred to as “fiqh-Hadith literature.”8 Moreover, we see there is no section about the Stories of the Prophet (al-ahadith al-anbiya) or even about the signs of the Doomsday. Therefore, it makes no sense to expect Muwatta to have narrations on the subject. Or should one say that whatever hadith narrations are not mentioned in Muwatta are all dubious? The narration of Muwatta with the mention of Dajjal (Anti-Christ) and „Eisa –may Allah bless him- that Mr. Ghamidi refers to is placed in “Book of the Description of the Prophet- peace and blessings of Allah be upon him” (kitab siffat al-nabi sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam). The first chapter of this Book is about the physical description of the Holy Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- and it has only one narration. Next chapter heading is “What is narrated about the description of „Eisa ibn Maryam” (ma jaa’ fi siffat ‘Eisa ibn Maryam) and it also has just one report. Firstly, the chapter is just about the physical description of „Eisa –may Allah bless him- placed in the section of the compilation which is also about “description” (siffat) of the Prophet. There was no reason for Imam Malik to quote all the narrations he knew in this chapter. The fact that preceding chapter about the Holy Prophet –peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- also has only one narration supports this. Clearly, Imam Malik was quoting only what was relevant to the chapter. Also it appears he was trying to keep it brief otherwise certainly he as “the Imam of the City of the Prophet” could have quoted a lot about the Holy Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- at least. It is true that Imam Malik has quoted narrations about few exceptional things other than jurisprudence but that does not mean he quoted reports about everything important.
Since Mr. Ghamidi is much interested in dwelling on “why” something is mentioned at certain instances in the Qur‟an and hadith and why other things are not, it will be great to know what he thinks is the reason Imam Malik mentioned a report about the physical description of „Eisa –may Allah bless him- to the exclusion of other Prophets (for we know narrations about the description of Musa –may Allah bless him- are well known) and that too in the section of his work dedicated to the Holy Prophet? May be it is because „Eisa –may Allah bless him- is the only Prophet whom the Muslims are supposed to see according to the “conventional” belief.
Even if there was no earlier work having narrations about the return of „Eisa –may Allah bless him- the detail above is quite sufficient to dismantle Mr. Ghamidi‟s weird and misleading argument. 5. Summary and Conclusion The argument of Mr. Ghamidi is absolutely baseless. It springs either from lack of understanding or an attempt to mislead common people. I hope and wish former is the case. Also his information is wrong. The fact is al-Jami of Ma‟mar bin Rashid was compiled earlier than Muwatta of Imam Malik and it has a whole chapter about the descent of Sayyidina „Eisa –may Allah bless him. Further, one of the narrations of al-Jami‟ with exactly the same wording is found in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim etc. and thus kills Mr. Ghamidi‟s minced attack on these canonical works when he says “narrations started appearing” in these works as if forged narrations have found way into these books. Truth is that belief return of „Eisa –may the peace of blessings of Allah be upon him- is based on mutawatir (continuously reported) narrations. It is only the hadith rejecters that deny his return. We all must consider the advice of Imam Ibn Sirin (d. 110 AH):
“This knowledge [of religion] constitutes faith, so be wary of whom you acquire your knowledge from.”9
–by Waqar Akbar Cheema
References & Notes:
1. Muhammad bin „Ali Abu Talib al-Makki, Qut al-Qulub fi Ma’amlah al-Mahbub, Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyya, Beirut, 2005, vol.1 p.273, translated in John Renard, Knowledge of God in Classical Sufism: Foundations of Islamic Mystical Theology, Paulist Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2004 pp.205-206 ↩
2. Studies in Early Hadith Literature, Suhail Academy, Lahore 2001 p.148 n.6 citing Hamidullah, Sahifa Hammam, footnote 43 ↩
3. See, Musannaf „Abdul Razzaq, (2nd ed.) Al-Maktab al-Islami, Beirut, 1983 vol.10 p.379 onwards ↩
4. Al-Jami of Ma‟mar included in Musannaf „Abdul Razzaq, vol.11 pp.399-402 Hadith 20840-20846 ↩
5. Ibid. Hadith 20840 ↩
6. Sahih Bukhari, Book 34, hadith 425. (Hadith No. 2222 according to Fath al-Bari numbering system) ↩
7. Studied in Hadith Methodology and Literature, Suhail Academy, Lahore 2002 p.84 ↩
8. M. Mustafa al-A‟zami, On Schacht’s Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, Suhail Academy, Lahore 2004 pp.31-32 ↩
9. Muslim, Sahih, Dar al-Ahya al-Turath al-„Arabi, Beirut, 2005 vol.1 p.14 ↩