IT is a belief common to the whole Muslim world that Muhammad, as regards all that he said or did, was supernaturally guided from on high; hence it follows that his words and actions constitute a divine rule of faith and practice ; this is the doctrine which underlies the fabric of the Sunni creed with its 145,000,000, of votaries, the name itself being derived from the Arabic word "Sunna" meaning regulation. In the early days of Islam the Prophet's sayings were not, it is true, committed to writing, but handed down by word of mouth, while the record of his actions existed not save in the memories of his faithful followers. In such circumstances, it may readily be conceived that the first four Khalifs who had all of them been friends and companions of the Lawgiver of Arabia, and as such the repertories of his utterances, attained an influence but little inferior to that of the founder of Islam himself, and their authority is a dominant principle amongst the millions who profess the Sunni creed. To these "leaders of thought" also must be added the name of Ayisha, the favourite wife of the Prophet; nor must the six companions of Muhammad, known as the "Evangelists of Islam," be omitted from the honoured list. It cannot be doubted that zealous efforts were made to hand down the traditions of the faith pure and undefiled, and indeed the Prophet Himself denounced in terrible language, the wickedness of those who purposely misrepresented his words. Yet in spite of all this care, spurious traditions imperceptibly
crept in, and, so early as the second century of Islam, the evil had risen to such a height, that the most foolish and extravagant notions began to mar and disfigure the simplicity of the belief in one God, and men were taught to suppose that they would be consigned to everlasting perdition for the commission of the most trivial offence, such as, to quote one instance, wearing their trousers below the ankle. This being the case, an attempt was made by some pious enthusiasts to eradicate, as far as possible, the dicta which were unreliable. The result was the well-known Sihah Sitta" or six correct books, compiled by six learned "Muhadisin," or "collectors of traditions."
The first of these, termed Sahih Bukhari is named after Abu Abdu'llah Muhammad Ibn Ismail, a native of Bukhara, who was born A.H. 194 (A.D. 809). He was a man of middle height, spare in frame, and, as a boy, totally blind. The grief of his father, was, on this account intense. But one day in a dream, he saw the patriarch Abraham, who said to him, "God, on account of thy grief and sorrow hath granted sight to thy son." Vision being thus restored to the lad, he was sent, at the age of ten, to school, where he began to learn the traditions by heart. When his education was finished a famous doctor chancing to come to Bukhara, was mortified at receiving a correction at the hands of the young student; the audacity was astounding, but the stripling was, none the less more than a match for his elder companion, who had in fact to acknowledge his error. Encouraged by his success the youthful Bukhari set to work collecting and sifting the traditions, and it is said that at the early age of sixteen he was able to remember upwards of 15,000 of them. In the course of time he got together no less than 600,000, of which after careful examination he selected and approved of 7,275, and recorded them in the well-known volume " Sahih i-Bukhari. It is said that he never sat down to examine a tradition without invoking the aid of the Almighty to prevent the occurrence of error. His memory was
incredible. When, for instance, at Baghdad, the doctors and priests of that city determined on one occasion to put his knowledge to a severe test; they accordingly selected one hundred traditions, and falsifying them, distributed them in tens to as many different persons, with directions that they should attend one of Al Bukhari's assemblies, and question him regarding the said traditions. This was done, and in the midst of a large assemblage the pious doctor was called upon to pronounce his judgment. He listened in silence as one by one the questioners read their traditions, which had purposely been altered from the original text; in every instance the ejaculation was unchanged, "I am not acquainted with it." When all had finished, he repeated in succession the whole hundred traditions, as they originally stood. From that day his influence was unbounded and a crowd of little short of 90,000 persons are said to have attended his lectures and studied under him. For sixteen years he lived in a mosque, and died, much respected, at the age of sixty-four.
The mass of traditions brought together by Al Bukhari is known as the "Authentic collection," and regarded as the highest in point of authority of the six works which are accepted by Muhammadan orthodoxy. But defects of method in the arrangement of his book rendered it so bewildering and full of perplexity as regarded purposes of consultation, that a fresh compilation on an improved and simpler plan was made by his friend and fellow pupil, Muslim Ibn Hajjaj, a native of Khorassan, who, with indefatigable industry, collected together upwards of 300,000 traditions; eliminating from these such as rested on no sound basis, he formed the remainder into a volume, thenceforward known as "Sahih-i-Muslim," i.e., "the emendations of Muslim."
This learned doctor is said to have been a very just man, and never to have turned away those who came to him for advice. His death, if the account which has been handed down be worthy of credit, was singular. One day he was sitting as usual in the mosque, when
some people came to ask him about a tradition. As he could not discover it in the books in his possession at the time, he repaired to his house to make search. Whereupon, as it was clear that the matter was a work involving much research and trouble, the people brought him a basket of dates. The learned doctor, unable to control his appetite, went on eating and searching till he died. This strange termination of the holy man's career occurred in A.H. 261 (A.D. 874).
The third compilation, known as "Sunan-i-Abu Daud," was, as its name implies, the work of Abu Daud Sajistani, a native of Saistan. A great traveller, he visited all the principal places of Mussulman learning, labouring all the time most diligently at his studies, till in the end he attained an unrivalled knowledge of the traditions, of which he collected about 500,000, and transferred 4,800 to his book; his devotion and piety also gave him that authority which in all ages has attached to a pure and blameless life. He flourished from A.H. 202 (A.D. 811) till A.H. 275 (A.D. 888).
The fourth book or "Jami-i-Tirmizi," was the work of Abu Isa Muhammad Tirmizi a learned theologian born at Tirmiz in the year A.H. 209 (A.D. 824). But little is known of him beyond that he was a disciple of Bukhari, and a well-informed man whose exactness was proverbial.
The fifth collection of traditions, celebrated to fame as the "Sunan-i-Nasai," was compiled by Abu Abdu'r Rahman Nasai, born at Nasa in Khorassan in the year AH. 214 (A.D. 829). It is recorded by those who sing his praises, that this doctor was wont to fast every other day, and that he had four wives and many slaves. He met his death, which occurred in A.H. 303, (A.D. 915), at the hands of the people of Damascus, who, enraged at a pamphlet which he read to them in the mosque dilating upon the virtues of Ali, and vexed at his refusal to sing the praises of Muawiya (the deadly enemy of the latter Imam) beat the unhappy saint so severely that he died in a few days from the injuries
he had received at the hands of the incensed Damascenes.
The sixth and last treatise "Sunan-i-Ibn-Maja," contains 4,000 traditions collected by one Ibn Maja, of whom all that is known is that he was born at Iraq in the year A.H. 209 (A.D. 824), and that he ranked as a high authority regarding the traditions, being well versed in all the sciences connected with them.
The Sunnis are subdivided into four chief sects, which, notwithstanding some differences as to legal conclusions in their interpretation of the Quran, and matters of practice, are generally acknowledged to be orthodox in radicals, or matters of faith, and capable of salvation, and have each of them their several stations or oratories in the temple of Mecca.
Theoretically, it is true any Muslim can attain to the exalted degree of a leader in the faith, but it is one of the principles of Muhammadan jurisprudence that such a high honour is dependent on the five following conditions. (1.) A knowledge of the Quran and alt that is related thereto, including a complete familiarity with Arabic literature in all its branches. (2.) A knowledge of the Quran by heart. (3.) A knowledge of the traditions, or at least of 3,000 of them, the more important being learned by heart. (4.) A pious and austere life. (5.) A profound knowledge of all the sciences of the law.
The first of the four orthodox sects, is that of the Hanifites, so called after their founder Abu Hanifa, born at Kufa in the 80th year of the Hijra (A.D. 699). It is said that one night, having dreamed that he was digging open the tomb of the prophet, next morning he sent to an interpreter of visions to inquire the meaning of what had happened. The reply disclosed to him, though in somewhat ambiguous terms, the purpose of his life. "The person who had this dream will lay open a science never before discovered."
Devoting himself to the study of the Quran, the eloquence of his tongue, coupled with the sweetness of
his voice, gave an irresistible charm to his utterances while his plain solid understanding, combined with his modesty and piety, gained for him high rank and influence amongst the expounders of the sacred volume.
He achieved, too, an immense fame by reason of his knowledge of the law, and the subtlety and acuteness he displayed in applying the method of analogical deduction. But he shrank from putting his legal knowledge to any practical use, and, indeed, when appointed Qazi at Kufa, at that time a great centre of religious fervour, he refused to act. The Amir was greatly incensed at this opposition, and ordered the recalcitrant theologian to be daily flogged in public till he should consent. So day after day ten strokes of the whip were inflicted on Abu Hanifa till the number mounted up to 110, when, finding the fortitude of the Imam still unvanquished, an order was given that the hapless doctor might be set at liberty.
To his many mental qualifications Abu Hanifa added a quickness of retort, which on several occasions served him in good stead. The story runs, that when the Abbasides came into power, the Amir summoned to his presence the man of God: on entering the room a chamberlain, who bore the latter great enmity, advancing before his sovereign, said, "O Commander of the Faithful this Abu Hanifa maintains an opinion contrary to that which was held by your ancestors, who said that when a man takes an oath, and one or two days after puts restrictions to it, these latter are valid. Now Abu Hanifa teaches that restrictions are not valid unless announced simultaneously with the oath." On hearing this charge Abu Hanifa said, "O Commander of the Faithful! your chamberlain has asserted that the oath of fidelity towards you which was taken by your troops may not be binding." "How so?" inquired the Khalif. "Because," answered the ready-witted theologian, "when they went back to their dwellings they might have made such restrictions as rendered their oath null." The Amir laughed, and
advised his chamberlain to avoid in the future making attacks which ended in defeat. When they had retired, the defeated champion accused his victor of an intent to shed blood. "No," replied Abu Hanifa, "but you meant to bring about the shedding of mine, and I saved not only myself but you."
The discomfiture of one courtier did not prevent another of his companions from a similar attempt. The circumstances were as follows - One day seeing Abu Hanifa enter the Khalif's presence chamber, where there was a numerous assembly, an opponent muttering to himself, "I shall have his life taken this very day," turned towards him and exclaimed, "Tell me, Abu Hanifa, if a man be ordered by the Commander of the Faithful to behead another man, without knowing anything about his conduct, is it lawful for him to obey?" "Tell me," rejoined the Imam, "does the Commander of the Faithful order what is right, or what is wrong?" "He orders what is right," was the only reply which was possible in the presence of the Khalif. "Then," said Abu Hanifa, "let right be done and no questions asked." "That man thought to have cast me into bonds, but I shackled him," was the triumphant exclamation of a genius whose ready wit had for a second time saved him from destruction.
But Abu Hanifa was destined to succumb at last to the tyranny of his sovereign. In the year of the Hijra 150 (AD. 767), when the building of Baghdad had been completed, that nothing might be wanting to add to the glory of the new capital of Islam, the Commander of the Faithful determined to appoint the great juris consult of Iraq as Qazi over the city. The Imam pleaded unfitness as a reason for declining the office. "You lie!" was the brusque and somewhat discourteous exclamation of the incensed Khalif; "you are fitted for it." Abu Hanifa mildly represented- "You have now decided in my favour, and against yourself. Is it lawful for you to nominate a liar as a Qazi over those whom God has confided to your care?" The retort was
striking, but it failed in effect, and the aged Imam was sent to prison, where after a lapse of six days he died: not, however, before, so tradition would have it believed, he had repeated the Quran 7,000 times.
His tenets are praised from their being founded more on reason than on tradition. He himself says of himself "We select first from the Quran, then from the traditions, then from the decrees of the Companions. We act upon what the Companions agreed upon: where they doubt we doubt." His teaching, which was chiefly oral, was founded exclusively on the Quran, and claimed to be logically developed therefrom by the method of analogical deduction. The Hanifite School of theology has been aptly described as the "High and dry party of Church and State." His enemies impute to him ignorance and presumption, quoting in support of the former charge his own confession that he was unable to decide whether a hermaphrodite could be admitted into Paradise, or a "jinn" become perceptible to the human vision; while to substantiate the latter accusation they maintain that, among other deviations from the true faith, he departed from the text of the Quran in allowing his followers to drink wine after its spirit had been somewhat evaporated by boiling. They also urge that he altered a number of practices concerning prayer and purification, which are inculcated in the sacred volume. These accusations, doubtless, owe their origin to the circumstance that in one of his works Abu Hanifa propounded his views to the effect that the faithful, so long as they remain in the true religion, do not become enemies of God, even should they repeatedly fall into sin; which latter, according to his conception, does not arise from want of faith-in short, he taught that grace is not incompatible with wickedness.
In connection with this point the story runs that on one occasion, when Abu Hanifa was performing his devotions in the Mosque at Kufa, a band of men surrounded the temple, and, advancing towards the theologian
demanded of him at the peril of his life an answer to two questions. "There are at the entrance," said they, "two corpses; one of a man, who, after drinking to excess, has died; the other of a woman who has died in childbirth with an adulterous offspring, she herself not having repented. Are the persons in question amongst the unbelievers or the faithful?" "Are they Jews?" demanded Abu Hanifa. "No," was the response. Christians? No." Magi?" Idolaters ?" "No." "What religion then did they profess?" "They were Mussulmans," replied the questioners. "In that case," said Abu Hanifa, "you have your answer." "How ?" exclaimed the astonished inquirers. "Because," said the astute man of God, "how can you place those who have accepted Islam amongst the ranks of the disbelievers?"
When questioned on a point of doctrine Abu Hanifa always gave a satisfactory reply, in so far that nothing embarrassed him; of this an instance occurred when he was summoned by the Khalif, who wished to know how many free women a free man might legally take to wife. "Four," replied the jurist. "Your hear, noble lady ?" said the Khalif to his spouse. "Amir of the Faithful," interrupted Abu Hanifa, "it is permitted to you to have but one." "How so?" said the enraged and astonished Khalif; "you have just named four." "True," replied the unabashed theologian, "God has said 'Marry amongst the women who please you, two, three, or four, but if you fear being unjust towards them espouse but one.' When you pronounced the words 'You hear, noble lady,' I perceived that you were in a condition of mind which rendered the last portion of God's decree applicable to your case." When Abu Hanifa went forth, the wife of the Khalif sent him a present as a mark of her appreciation; but the gift was returned, with an intimation that it was not for her, but for God, that the words had been spoken.
There is a tradition that this doctor having received a slap, said to the person who had the audacity to
strike the man of God, "I could return you injury for injury, but I will not do so; I could, too, bear a complaint against you before the Khalif, but I will not do so; I could at any rate in my prayers represent to God the outrage which you have done to me, but I will not do so. Lastly, on the day judgment, I could demand vengeance at the hands of the Almighty; but far from doing so, if 'that terrible period were to arrive at this very moment, and I had the opportunity of interceding for you, I would not enter Paradise save in your company." Noble sentiments were these for a man who, living in the second century of Islam, had given utterance to precepts which would have done credit to the teachings of Christianity in the year of grace One thousand eight hundred and eighty-six. Abu Hanifa was by trade a silk-mercer; one day a poor woman came to him, and begged that she might have some goods at cost price. "Take them," said he; but the sum named was so low that the woman fancied he was mocking her, till he pointed out that he had made his profit on another piece of silk of the same description, and was therefore to some extent indifferent as to his charges on this occasion.
It is well known that the Quran requires that a Muslim who apostatizes shall be put to death; in the case, however, of a woman, Imam Hanifa ruled that she should be imprisoned and beaten every day. The passage runs "Him who changes his religion kill." But it chances that the Arabic word translated " him who" is of common gender; in these circumstances the other Sunni leaders of thought hold that the injunction refers to persons of both sexes.
Perhaps, however, notwithstanding all that has been said, the best idea of the man may be derived from the advice which he gave to the governor of a province as to the mode of rule which the latter should pursue :- "Live amicably with thy brethren; testify to them thy regard, visit them, honour wise men, respect old persons, be
kind to young men, show indulgence for people's faults, cultivate the society of the virtuous, avoid the wicked, never reveal a secret, show regard for people of noble sentiment speak little, only discuss with distinguished personages, return good for evil, salute every one, even the lowest, avoid chicanery, and observe perpetually in thy words the laws of sincerity, attach thyself under all circumstances to religion. He to whom God shall give grace to practise these precepts will see strangers draw near to him, his enemies change to friends, while his discourse and words will serve as a lesson for other men, his science and life will profit the whole world. He will be universally loved, respected, praised and lauded."
The sect of Abu Hanifa for a lengthened period flourished for the most part in Iraq, but are now to be found chiefly amongst the Turks and Tartars.
The second orthodox sect is that of Ibn Malik, who was born at Madina, in the year of the Hijra 90, 93, 94, or 95, (AD. 708, 711, 712 or 713), the precise date being unknown, and died there in A.H. 177, 178, or 179 (A.D. 793, 794 or 795). This doctor is said to have paid great regard to the traditions of Muhammad. In his last illness a friend going to visit him found him intears, and asking him the reason of it, he answered, "How should I not weep? and who has more reason than I? Would to God that for every question decided by me according to my own opinion, I had received so many stripes, then would my accounts be easier. Would to God I had never given any decision of my own!"
Being once asked his opinion as to forty-eight questions, his answer to thirty-two of them was, that he did not know this reply is highly applauded by his followers, who deem it no easy matter that one who had any other view than God's glory should make so frank a confession of his ignorance.
At another time he refused to answer a question which had been asked, with the view of showing his ignorance :- "Tell the people that sent you," thus did Malik enjoin the messenger, "that Malik has answered
that he could not answer." He never, if he could avoid so doing, pronounced a tradition when travelling, or standing, or when pressed for time. "I like to feel the meaning of the Prophet's words when I repeat them to others," was his excuse on such occasions ; not only so, indeed, but he used to go through a regular fixed ceremony prior to the utterance of a sacred saying. He first made an ablution, after which he seated himself in the middle of his mattress, and spreading out his beard, he assumed a grave and dignified deportment. "I delight in testifying my profound respect for the sayings of the Apostle of God," was his explanation, "and I forever repeat a tradition unless I feel myself in a state of perfect purity." In accordance with the same spirit of veneration, he never made use of a horse in Madina, even when much enfeebled and advanced in years "I shall never ride in the city wherein the corpse of God's Apostle lies interred."
During Ibn Malik's sojourn at Madina that city became the centre of an Aliide insurrection; the learned doctor took no part in the movement, but was under-stood to favour the claims of the descendants of the Prophet's son-in-law; on which ground, when peace was restored, he was summoned before the governor of the Hijaz, who was so highly incensed that he had the venerable theologian stripped and flogged, after which he caused the arm of the teacher of religion to be drawn out to such a degree that it became dislocated at the shoulder.
His system of jurisprudence - the "Low Church" school of Islam - is founded on the customs of Madina, which he arranged and systematized; after this he embodied them with the traditions current in that city, and compiled a code embracing the whole sphere of life. He held that the doctors of the town in question would have been sure to have followed the practice and usage of their predecessors, when called upon to decide what might be done, and what should be avoided; while these latter, in turn, might well be supposed to
have borrowed their ideas from Muslims who had been ocular witnesses of the actions of the Prophet; it was on these grounds that he made the traditions of Madina the basis of his school of theology. His treatise is known as the "Muwatta," or "beaten path," the greater part of its contents being legal maxims, and opinions delivered by the Companions of Muhammad. It is worthy of note, that this is the first hook of this nature which was committed to paper, all the traditions having hitherto been preserved orally from generation to generation.
It is related of Ibn Malik that on one occasion the Khalif Harunu'r Rashid sent a messenger to the theologian, bidding him come to the palace, and bring his book with him; but he refused, saying, "A man of wisdom is visited, but does not visit science must be sought, but will not seek." The Ruler of the Faithful insisted on his attendance; having no alternative, the theologian presented himself before his sovereign, who inquired as to the cause of his guest's disobedience. Ruler of the Faithful," replied Malik, "the Prophet always honoured science; be not thou the first to abase it, for God will humble thy power." Harun felt the force of the remark, and, rising from his seat, walked with Malik to the doctor's house, where, sitting on the stairs, he made ready to listen to the words of the "Muwatta"; - but its author refused to read, saying, "If one removes science from the people to benefit the aristocracy, God will not make the nobles of the land to prosper." So an assistant took the place of the master. When the Khalif had listened for some time, Malik said to him, "Commander of the Faithful, thou hast come to see the wise men of our land, know that they admire modesty." The Amir was so pleased with the boldness and zeal, and, truth to tell, possibly with the flattery of Ibn Malik, that he resolved to introduce the "Muwatta" as a guide and direction for the subjects under his sway.
In spite of the modesty and wisdom of this doctor,
he is accused by his enemies of having taught that the flesh of all animals, except swine and beings endowed with reason, may be eaten; and they also allege that he affirmed the legality of a practice which cannot be named, but which all other Muhammadan teachers have deemed infamous.
The doctrine of Malik, for a while predominant in Spain, is now chiefly followed in Barbary, and other parts of Northern Africa.
The author of the third orthodox sect was Ash Shafii, born either at Gaza or Askalon, in Palestine, in the year of the Hijra 150 (A.D. 767), the same day that Abu Hanifa died ; but he was carried to Mecca at two years of age, and there educated. After a while he repaired to Madina, where he pursued his studies under the direction of Ibn Malik, who was so pleased with the diligence and zeal displayed by the student, that he addressed to the latter these encouraging words: "Have confidence in God, thou wilt soon become renowned; God hath placed in thy heart a flame, quench it not with sin." A few years before his death, which occurred A.H. 204 (A.D. 819), he went to Egypt, where his fame was so great that on one occasion no less than 900 carriages were drawn up outside his door, the occupants being engaged in listening to the words of wisdom which fell from the learned theologian's mouth. This doctor is celebrated for his excellency in all parts of learning was much esteemed by Ibn Hambal his who used to say that "he was as the sun and as health to the body." The latter, an opinion of Ash Shafii his scholars to go near him; but some time after, one of them meeting his master trudging on foot after the excommunicated doctor, who rode on a mule, asked Ibn Hanbal how it came about that he forbad them to follow a person and yet did it himself? to which the man of God replied, "Hold thy peace; if thou but attend his mule thou wilt profit thereby."
Ash Shafii is said to have been the first who
discoursed of jurisprudence, and reduced that science into a method; one wittily saying, that the relators of the traditions of Muhammad were asleep till this theologian came and waked them.
Having carefully studied the systems of the two preceding Imams, he introduced an eclectic system of his own, though based, in a large measure upon the doctrines of Ibn Malik. His "broad church" teaching was a reaction in fact against the tenets of Abu Hanifa, who propounded that, in the absence of a clear and direct statement, it will suffice if one passage in the Quran, or one tradition be adduced; whereas in such circumstances the Shafiite will require a considerable number of traditions to support his case. Though he introduced several alterations of religious forms, he advanced but few doctrines that can be deemed innovations; indeed, the injustice of his antagonists may be judged from their accusations the principal of which is that he departed from that text of the Quran which prohibits gambling, and allowed his disciples to indulge in the pastime of chess, to an extent not exceeding three games at a sitting.
Of a most amiable nature, pious, and generous almost to a fault, he inspired his followers with a large measure of respectful awe-but the extraordinary influence which he exercised, never filled his head with pride or arrogance, and it is related of him that he always carried a stick to remind him that he was but a traveller in this world. He used to divide the night into three parts, one for study, another for prayer, and a third for sleep; that he was diligent in the use of his time is testified by the circumstance that he left no less than 113 treatises on various matters connected with the religion and doctrine of Islam. It is related of him that he never so much as once swore by God, either to confirm a truth, or to affirm a falsehood; and that being by chance asked his opinion, he remained silent for some time, and when the reason of his silence was demanded, he answered, "I am considering first whether it be
better to speak or to hold my tongue." The following saying is also recorded of him, viz.: "Whoever pretends to love the world and its Creator at the same time is a
The chief seat of Ash Shafii's system was originally Egypt, where he had passed so great a portion of his life, and where his tomb was considered a sacred spot by the Faithful, and much visited by devout pilgrims. But schools to disseminate his doctrines were founded in Iraq, and the Khorassan, and regions beyond the Oxus, and shared with the Hanifite seminaries the privilege of teaching and giving opinions on questions of law. The rivalry, however, thus engendered, soon degenerated into a deep and hitter hatred, and it is recorded that when the Mongols in after years besieged the city of Rhe, one faction, the Shafiites, entered into secret negociations with the invaders to deliver up the town, upon condition that the Hanifites should be exterminated. The agreement was carried out to the letter, but the spectacle of so many Shafiites remaining untouched while the carcases of their brethren lay in festering piles in the streets, was intolerable to a horde of barbarians, whose sole ambition was indiscriminate slaughter, so the fiat went forth that no distinction of religion was to stay the avenging sword; thus the traitors to their country and their faith met the just reward of their bigoted perfidy and pious malignity The stronghold of Shafiism in the present day is at Cairo, though in India, especially at Haidarabad, and in the Bombay Presidency, the mass of the Mussulman population adopt the tenets of this form of Islam.
Ibn Hambal, the founder of the fourth sect, was born in the year of the Hijra 164 (A.D. 780) but as to the place of his birth there are two traditions. Some say that he first saw day at Marv, in Khorassan, where his parents were settled, and that his mother brought him thence to Baghdad at the breast; while others are of opinion that she reached that city before giving birth to her child. Ibn Hambal in process of time attained a
great reputation on account of his virtue and knowledge, being so well versed in the traditions of Muhammad that it is said he could repeat no less than a million of them! He was very intimate with Ash Shafii, from whom he received most of his traditionary knowledge, having been his constant attendant till the departure of the latter for Egypt. Refusing to acknowledge the Quran to be created, that is, to be the language of man, he was, by order of the Khalif of the day, severely scourged and imprisoned. Ibn Hambal died at Baghdad in the year 241 of the Hijra era (A.D. 855), and it is alleged, was followed to his grave by 800,000 men, and 60,000 women. It is related as something very extraordinary, if not miraculous, that on the day of his death no less than 20,000 Christians, Jews, and Magians embraced the Muhammadan faith.
Ibn Hambal appears to have been bolder than any of his predecessors, and to have taught doctrines which subjected him to the most cruel persecutions. Nor need this latter circumstance occasion wonder, seeing that he lived at a time when orthodox Islam seemed in danger of being lost amidst the rationalistic speculations and licentious practices of the Court at Baghdad: so rejecting the dangerous principles of analogical deductions, which had so weakened all the essentials of Faith, he went upon the surer ground of the Traditions, as these at least could not be supposed to pander to the appetites of a people steeped in luxury and self-indulgence. But to curb the passions of men, and to restrain their freedom of thought and action, is at all times difficult, and Ibn Hambal in encountering opposition, shared the fate of all reformers who seek to bring back mankind to ways of purity and faith.
So scrupulous was this theologian in his veneration for the Prophet of Arabia, that he would not eat watermelons because, although aware that the Master whom he adored, indulged in them, it was uncertain whether the founder of Islam peeled off the rind, or whether he broke, bit, or cut them! In these circumstances
spin by the light of such torches as might happen to the disciple deemed it better to refrain than to sin. Again, it is alleged that this Imam forbad a woman, who questioned him as to the propriety of the act to pass along the streets in night, because the Prophet had not mentioned that it was lawful so to do. But if tradition be accepted in his case, virtue was its own reward, for the tale is told that one day, when sitting in an assembly, he alone of all present observed some formal custom authorised by the Prophet, whereupon Gabriel at once appeared and informed him that on account of this action he had been selected as Imam!
At one time the Hambalite sect increased so fast, and became so powerful, that in the year AH. 323 (A.D. 934), they raised a great commotion at Baghdad, entering people's houses and upsetting their wine wherever it was found: they beat, too, the singing women, and broke their instruments. But at the present day, Ibn Hambal's followers are not very numerous, and few of them are to be found beyond the limits of Arabia.
Such are the four leading schools of thought in the Sunni faith; it must not, however, be supposed that the divergence of opinion in Islam ends here: far otherwise; the parties in the Muhammadan Church are well-nigh unlimited. Every reformer who can collect a few followers, establishes a new canon of faith, and the pages of history teem with the recital of the struggles, the upheavings, the heresies which have rent asunder the belief in the one God, as established by the Prophet of Arabia.
Of the numerous sects which from time to time sprang into being, some had a temporary and transient existence, while others took root and brought forth fruit. Of this latter category few examples are more conspicuous than the Wahhabis founded by Muhammad ibn Abdu'l Wahhab, who was born at Najd, in Central Arabia in AH. 1103 (AD. 1692). After going through a course of Arabic literature, he studied jurisprudence,
under a teacher of the Hanifa school, and then set out in company with his father, to perform the Hajj. After this he went to Madina, where he received further instruction in law, and then repaired to Ispahan to spend some time in the society of the learned men who resided at that city. On his return to his native town he assumed the position of a religious teacher, but was shocked to find how the people had departed from the simplicity of their faith. Luxury in the form of rich dresses and silken garments, superstition in the use of omens, auguries and the like, pilgrimages to shrines and tombs, seemed to be altering the character of the religion as given by the Prophet of Arabia, while the great doctrine of the Unity of God was obscured by the veneration paid to saints and holy men. So his soul was roused within him, and he determined to purify the religion which had grown so corrupt, and to start a school of his own. Girding his loins for the great enterprise which he had taken in hand, he set forth on his mission, proclaiming to the people these stirring words :-
"The Muslim pilgrim adores the tomb of the Prophet, and the sepulcher of Ali, and of other saints who have died in the odour of sanctity. They run there to pay the tribute of their fervent prayers. By this means they think that they can satisfy their spiritual and temporal needs. From what do they seek this benefit? From walls made of mud and stones? From corpses deposited in tombs? If you speak to them, they will reply, 'We do not call these monuments God, we turn to them in prayer, and we pray the saints to intercede for us on high.' Now the true way of salvation is to prostrate oneself before Him who is ever present, and to venerate Him,- the One without associate or equal."
With such and similar language, he aroused against him the passions of the multitude, who sought to rid themselves of a man thus preaching against their indulgences and follies; but Ibn Abdu'l Wahhab found a protector in the person of a local chief, named
Muhammad Ibn Said, and the latter threw in his lot with the young reformer. Assisted with the soldiers which his patron brought to his aid, matters soon assumed a more hopeful aspect, and the new religion was inculcated at the point of the sword. The bigotry of the youthful creed was stern and uncompromising. "As soon as you seize a place, put the males to the sword such was the language of the new leader of the Faithful. "Plunder and pillage at your pleasure, but spare the women, and do not strike a blow at their modesty." On the day of battle each soldier was presented with a paper, entitling the bearer to a safe conduct to the world of bliss! The letter in question, which was addressed to the Treasurer of Paradise, was enclosed in a bag, and suspended by the warriors to their necks. The soldiers were thus persuaded that the souls of those who died in battle would go straight to Heaven, without being examined by the two questioning angels in the grave. The widows and orphans of all who fell warriors who shed their blood on behalf of the new were supported by the survivors: as, therefore, the religion, went direct to Paradise if slain, while if they survived a share of the booty was the reward for the dangers and toils which they had undergone, the zeal of the enthusiastic propagandists knew no hounds. In the course of time, the daughter of Muhammad Ibn Said married the pious warrior whom her father had befriended; thence arose this Wahhabi dynasty, which continues to this day.
In 1803 both Mecca and Madina fell into the hands of the Wahhabis, who stripped the mosques of their decorations, and consigned to the flames the rosaries, the silken robes, the pipes, and all else which was repugnant to the tenets of the reformers of Islam: for nine years after holding possession of the sacred cities, however, they were expelled by the Turks, and their ruler publicly executed in the Square of St. Sophia at Constantinople; since that period the political power of the Wahhabis has been confined
chiefly to a small portion of Arabia, which still acknowledges their sway. They are to be found, however, scattered throughout India in more or less considerable numbers, and constitute a focus for intrigue in some of the more fanatical towns; but they are not knit together in one compact commonwealth, acknowledging a supreme head and ruler, and are, as a consequence, powerless for good, even assuming that their tenets are calculated to effect the reforms which the founder of the creed proclaimed as his object and desire.
The Wahhabis acknowledge as the foundation of their faith-first, the Quran: secondly, the Traditions recorded on the authority of the Companions, so far that is as concerns those things in regard to which the latter were unanimous in opinion and practice. But the Unity of God is the one supreme dogma which underlies the whole of their belief, and it is because they set their faces against many of the practices tending to obscure this doctrine that they come into collision with other Mussulmans. Thus they hold it to be unlawful to call upon any saint, or to invoke his aid in time of need, instead of worshipping God, or to use any other name than that of the Almighty in attacking an enemy; nor will they allow passages to be read with the view of propitiating ought but Him, making others the object of contemplation. While admitting that on the Day of Judgment Muhammad will receive permission from God to intercede for his followers, they deny that he has that power at present. Again, prostration, bowing down, standing with folded arms, spending money in the name of an individual, fasting out of respect to his memory, proceeding to a distant shrine in a pilgrim's garb, and calling out the name of the saint whilst so going, are one and all deemed blamable, while it is thought wrong to cover the grave with a sheet, to say prayers at a shrine, to kiss any particular stone, to rub the mouth and heart against the walls of any sacred edifice, &c. It is further considered
folly to keep up superstitious customs, such as seeking guidance from beasts, trusting to omens, believing in lucky and unlucky days, and the like thereof. Lastly, it is forbidden to swear by the name of the Prophet or others, which is to give them the honour due to God alone.
Another common belief which the Wahhabis oppose is that Mussulmans can perform the pilgrimage to Mecca say prayers, read the Quran, abide in meditation, give alms, and do other good works, the reward of which shall be credited to a person already dead.
In matters of practice they deem all innovations as objectionable, classing in this category the fine arts in all their branches, while to wear silk garments, "to drink the shameful," or in other words to smoke tobacco, is a deadly sin, which nothing can expiate, not even the mercy of God! The number of the Wahhabis is estimated by Mr. Blunt at 8,000,000, but it is far from improbable that these figures are unduly high.
Muhammad - His Life and Doctrines with Accounts of his Immediate Successors
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