Testing the People to Establish whether they are upon the Sunnah
Imtihān (with the people of Sunnah): Is to test and examine the people from whom opposition to the Qur’ān, Sunnah and Sahābah is suspected, or when innovations and deviations become widespread, and misguidance becomes the norm – when Sunnah and the way of the Salaf becomes a stranger, and preachers call to misguidance. In these situations and times, ahlul-bid’ah conceal their true intents and try to deceive the masses.
- 1. Proof for Imtihān in the Qur’ān
Allāh, the Most High, stated:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا جَاءَكُمُ الْمُؤْمِنَاتُ مُهَاجِرَاتٍ فَامْتَحِنُوهُنَّ ۖ اللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِإِيمَانِهِنَّ ۖ فَإِنْ عَلِمْتُمُوهُنَّ مُؤْمِنَاتٍ فَلَا تَرْجِعُوهُنَّ إِلَى الْكُفَّارِ ۖ لَا هُنَّ حِلٌّ لَّهُمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحِلُّونَ لَهُنَّ ۖ
“O you who have believed, when the believing women come to you as emigrants, examine them. Allah is most knowing as to their faith. And if you know them to be believers, then do not return them to the disbelievers; they are not lawful [wives] for them, nor are they lawful [husbands] for them.” [al-Mumtahana: 10]
There are many saying as to how Allāh’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam) examined the the famale migrants to Madeenah.
i. Ibn ‘Abbās (radhiyallāhu ‘anhumaa) was asked regarding the mode that the testing of the women took place. He answered:
“They were examined by them swearing that: By Allaah, I did not leave due to any hatred of my husband. By Allāh, I did not leave due to me desire of one land over another. By Allaah I did not leave due to my seeking the worldly affairs. By Allaah, I did not leave except due to love of Allaah and His Messenger.”
Narrated from Mujāhid, Qataadah, ‘Ikrimah and Bukair – reported by Ibn Jareer (26/68), edition: al-Baabee al-Halabee, 1373H.
ii. A’isha (radhiyallaahu ‘anhaa) stated:
“Allāh’s Messenger would not test the believing women except with the Āyah:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِذَا جَاءَكَ الْمُؤْمِنَاتُ يُبَايِعْنَكَ عَلَىٰ أَن لَّا يُشْرِكْنَ بِاللَّهِ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَسْرِقْنَ وَلَا يَزْنِينَ وَلَا يَقْتُلْنَ أَوْلَادَهُنَّ وَلَا يَأْتِينَ بِبُهْتَانٍ يَفْتَرِينَهُ بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِنَّ وَأَرْجُلِهِنَّ وَلَا يَعْصِينَكَ فِي مَعْرُوفٍ ۙ
“O Prophet, when the believing women come to you pledging to you that they will not associate anything with Allah, nor will they steal, nor will they commit unlawful sexual intercourse, nor will they kill their children, nor will they bring forth a slander they have invented between their arms and legs, nor will they disobey you in what is right…” [al-Mumtahana: 12]
Reported by al-Bukhāree in the Book of Talāq (5288), and in the Book of Tasfīr (4891). Muslim in the Book of Imārah (1866). At-Tirmidhee (3306). Ibn Mājah (2875). Ahmad (24772).
iii. Imtihān (testing) was the affirmation of the Testimony of Faith (the Shahādah). This has been reported from Ibn Abbās (radhiyallāhu ‘anhumā) who said:
“The testing of them (the womenfolk) was their declaration of the Shahādah that none has the right to be worshipped except Allāh and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.”
Reported by Ibn Jareer (26/68).
- 2. Proof of Imtihān in the Sunnah
i. From Mu’āwiyah bin al-Hakam as-Sulamee who said:
I used to have a slave girl, who used to look after my sheep in the region of Uhud and al-Jawāniyyah. She went out one day and a wolf took one of the sheep from her. I am a man from the children of Ādam, so I get upset just as they get upset. So I gave her a slap, so when I came to Allāh’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam) he regarded it to be a serious affair. I said: “O Messenger of Allāh! Should I not free her?” He replied: “Bring her to me.” So I brought her to him. He said to her: “Where is Allāh?” She replied: “Above the sky.” He then asked: “Who am I?” She said: “You are the Messenger of Allāh.” So he said: “Now free her for indeed she is a believer.”
Reported by Muslim, Book of Mosques (537). Abu Dāwood, Book of Prayer (930), Book of Imān and Nudhoor (3282). Mālik in al-Muwatta (1511). Ahmad (27718, 27720) from the hadeeth of Mu’aawiyah. Reported by Ahmad (7846) and Abu Dāwood (3284) from the hadeeth of Abu Hurairah (radhiyallāhu ‘anhu).
ii. From Sa’d bin ‘Ubādah (radhiyallāhu ‘anhu) who said that Allāh’s Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihi wassallam) said:
“Indeed this life is a test by way of the Ansār – love of them is Imān and hatred of them is hypocrisy.”
Reported by Ahmad (21956, 23335) from the hadeeth of Sa’d, however there in the chain a narrator who is ambiguous, however it is nevertheless supported by another narration in Muslim, The Book of Imān (84) from Anas bin Mālik (radhiyallāhu ‘anhu) which is marfoo’ (elevated) as a saying of Allāh’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam):
“A sign of a hypocrite is his hatred of the Ansār, and a sign of a believer is his love of the Ansār.”
- 3. Narrations from Some of the Salaf where they would Test the People
i. Adh-Dhahabee said that Mahdee bin Hilāl said:
I entered upon Sulaimān at-Taimee and I found with him Hammād bin Zaid, Zaid bin Zurai’, Bishr bin al-Mufaddal and other companions of ours from the people of Basrah.
He (Sulaimān at-Taimee) would not narrate a thing to anyone until he had examined them, so he would say: “Is fornication from the Pre-Decree?” So if he responded with: “Yes.” Then he (Sulaimān) would say: “Then swear by Allāh that this is your Religion by which you worship Allāh.” So if he swore by Allāh upon that, he would narrate to him five hadeeths.
Sulaimān bin Tarkhān at-Taimee died 143AH (rahimahullāh). See Siyar A’lām an-Nubalā (6/200), Tadhkiratul-Huffādh (1/150).
Al-‘Ajalee – a Tābi’ee, trustworthy (thiqah) – said that Ash-Sha’bee said: “I have never seen anyone more truthful than Sulaimān at-Taimee.”
Yahyah bin Sa’eed said: “We hold at-Taimee to be from Ahlul-Hadeeth.” See Tahdheeb al-Kamāl (2824), Tahdheed at-Tahdheeb (14712).
ii. Al-Hākim stated that I heard Abu Sa’eed bin Abī Bakr (rahimahullāh) say:
When the affair of the Kullābiyyah (i.e. those who negate the Attributes of Allāh by false interpretation) struck the town of Naisaaboor, Abul-‘Abbās as-Sirāj used to test the children of the people – he would refuse to narrate hadeeths to the children of the Kullābiyyah. So on an occassion he stood me up in a gathering and said: “Say: I free myself before Allāh, the Most High, from the Kullābiyyah.” So I said: “If I say that, my father will not feed me bread!” So he starting laughing and said: “Leave this one alone.”
See Siyar A’lām an-Nubalā (14/395).
Muhammad bin Is-hāq as-Sirāj, he was the Shaikhul-Islām, Muhaddith (a scholar of hadeeth) of Khurasān – the author of al-Musnad al-Kabeer. Ibn Abī Hātim (rahimahullāh) said: “Sudooq, thiqah (truthful, trustworthy).” He listened to knowledge from Ishāq bin Rāhawayah (died 238H), Qutaibah bin Sa’eed and others. Imām al-Bukhāree (died 256H) and Muslim narrated from him. He died 313H. See Siyar A’lām an-Nubalā (14/388), Tarīkh Baghdād (1/248), al-Jarh wat-Ta’deel (7/196), Tadhkiratul-Huffādh (2/731).
iii. Adh-Dhahabee said: al-Qāsim bin Abī Sālih said: Abu Bakr bin al-Fadhl al-Qastānee and Huraysh bin Ahmad came to Ibrāhīm bin al-Husain al-Hamadhānee during the days of Hajj. They asked him regarding the hadeeth of al-Ifk (wherein Ā’ishah was slandered and falsely accused of indecent behaviour) narrated by al-Fawree from Mālik.
So az-Za’farānee turned around and said:
“O Abu Ishāq (i.e. al-Hamadhānee)! You narrate to the heretics?” He asked: “And who is the heretic?” He said: “This one. Indeed Abu Hātim ar-Rāzee would not narrate to a person until he had tested them.” So he (al-Hamadhānee) said: “We hold Abu Hātim to be the leader of the believers in the field of hadeeth! And testing is the religion of the Khawārij. Whoever attends my gathering and he is from ahlus-Sunnah, then he will hear that which is a comfort to his soul. And whoever is from ahlul-Bid’ah, then he hears that which Allāh causes him to be enraged with.” So both of them stood up, and they did not take from him.
See See Siyar A’lām an-Nubalā (13/189).
Ibrāhīm bin al-Hasan al-Hamadhānee al-Kasā’ee, Abu Ishāq: He is the Imām, the Hāfidh, the Trustworthy (thiqah), known as Ibn Deezeel. He heard much by way of knowledge in the two Harams, Egypt, Shām and Irāq. Al-Hākim said about him: “Trustworthy and dependable.” He died in 281H. See See Siyar A’lām an-Nubalā (13/189), Tadhkiratul-Huffādh (2/608), al-Bidāyah wan-Nihāyah (11/71).
The author of the checking and study of “Juz’un feehi Imtihān as-Sunnee minal-Bid’ee” of Abul-Faraj Abdul-Wāhid ash-Sheerāzee al-Maqdisee (died 486H) states on page 73:
“The opposition of az-Za’farānee to the position of Ibrāhīm al-Hamadhānee Ibn Deezeel in not making Imtihān (to test the one coming to seek knowledge) shows that the affair of testing the people was well-known to them.”
On page 74, he states:
“As for what is reported from al-Hāfidh Abu Ishāq al-Hamadhānee, then this is possibly his opinion that he stated from his own Ijtihād.”
So therefore what is correct, well-known and established from Qurān and Sunnah, the Sahābah and that which was was well-known amongst the Salaf is the permissiblilty of Imtihān (testing when necessary).
iv. Muhammad bin Sireen (rahimahullaah) said:
“They (i.e. the scholars of Hadeeth) did used to ask about the chain of narration (isnād). But when the fitnah occurred, they would question by asking: “Name us your men?” So they would look towards ahlus-Sunnah and take their hadeeth – and they would look towards ahlul-Bid’ah and not accept their hadeeth.”
“Muqaddimah Saheeh Muslim” (1/14).
v. Muhammad bin Sireen also said:
“Indeed this knowledge is Religion, so a man must look from who he is taking his Religion.”
Reported by ad-Dārimee (419, 424, 429) with an authentic chain of narration.
And he was al-Imām Abu Bakr al-Ansāree, Muhammad bin Sireen, the freed slave of Anas bin Mālik (radhiyallāhu ‘anhu). He was a faqeeh (a scholar of jurisprudence), an-‘Ālim, narrating hadeeth plentifully – his immense scholarship is agreed upon. He died in 110H. Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb (9/214, no. 336).
vi. Ahmad bin Yoonus said:
I saw Zuhair bin Mu’āwiyah come to Zā’idah bin Qudāmah, so he spoke to him concerning a man who narrated to him. So Zā’idah said: “Is he from ahlus-Sunnah?” Zuhair replied: “I do not know him to be upon bid’ah.”
So Zā’idah repeated: “Is he from ahlus-Sunnah?” Zuhair asked: “Since when have the people started to be judged like this?”
So Zā’idah said: “Since they started to rejoice and gloat at the misfortune of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, may Allāh be pleased with them both.”
He was Zā’idah bin Qudāmah ath-Thaqafee, Abu as-Salt al-Koofee.
“Zā’idah would not narrate hadeeth to a Qadaree (a denier of Allāh’s pre-decree) or any person of innovation, if he knew him to be upon that.”
Al-‘Ajalee said: “He was trustworthy (thiqah). He would not narrate to anyone until he had asked regarding him. So if he turned out to be a person of Sunnah, he would narrate to him, otherwise he would not.”
Abu Hātim said: “He was trustworthy, a person of Sunnah. Died 212H”
See Siyar A’lām an-Nubalā (7/377), Tahdheeb al-Kamāl (2167), Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb (3/307).
vii. Imām Abu Muhammad al-Barbahāree (died 329H, rahimahullāh) stated:
“To set up trials in Islām is an innovation – as for in these times then one is tested concerning the Sunnah, due to his saying: “Indeed this knowledge is Religion, so a man must look from who he is taking his Religion.” And his saying: “Do not accept hadeeth except from from one whose testimony you would accept.” So investigate, so if he is a person of Sunnah, having knowledge and is truthful, then write from him [i.e. write down his narrations and knowledge], and if he is not, then leave him.”
Shaikh Sālih al-Fawzān stated in commentary:
“The origin of a Muslim is goodness and to have good thoughts of him, so long as nothing emanates from him that opposes that. This is a principle, so the author is saying: So long as nothing is apparent from a Muslim except goodness, then we accept from him that he is upon goodness – this is even for the hypocrite. The Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihi wassallam) accepted what was apparent from the hypocrites, and he left their hidden affair to Allāh, the Perfect and Most High. So long as there is nothing that is apparent from him of opposition, then you must have good thoughts of him. However if something becomes apparent from him with regarding to hatred of the Sunnah or for ahlus-Sunnah, then at that point you must be careful of him. This is the meaning of his saying: “To set up trials in Islām is an innovation,” meaning that any Muslim from whom evil is not apparent, then do not test him. “As for in these times..” Meaning in his time, it became the case that the people were tested with the Sunnah [and their belief and adherence to it]. This was because the misguided sects that ascribed themselves to Islām were plentiful, so it was necessary to know who was upon the Sunnah, and that a person was not deceived just because of one’s claim to Islām.
So whoever loves ahlus-Sunnah, then this is a proof that he is from the people of goodness – and whoever loves the people of Bid’ah, then that is a proof that he himself is from the people of wickedness.”
See “Itihaaf al-Qāree bit-Ta’leeqāt ‘alā Sharhis-Sunnah lil-Imām Abee Muhammad al-Hasan bin ‘Alee bin Khalaf al-Barbahāree” of Shaikh Sālih al-Fawzān (2/241).
viii. Testing those from whom there is nothing apparent and manifest of deviation is not correct. Testing those from whom opposition of the ‘aqeedah is apparent or something has emanated from that causes doubt is permissible (and even desirable!).
“When Imām al-Bukhāree (died 256H) went to Naisaboor, the people flocked to him. Some of the shaikhs of Naisaboor felt envy towards him, one of them said to his friends: “Al-Bukhāree says that the actual utterance of the Qurān is created.” So they tested him in the gathering. When the people attended the gathering of al-Bukhāree, a man stood and said: “O Abu Abdullāh! What do you say about the “utterance” of the Qurān [on one’s tongue]? Is it created or not created?”
So al-Bukhāree turned away from him and did not answer. So the man said: “O Abu Abdullāh!” and he repeated the question. So again he turned away from him. Then he asked a third time, upon that al-Bukhāree turned to him and said: “The Qurān is the speech of Allāh, not created. As for the actions of the servants, then they are created! And the testing is a bid’ah.” Then the man became disorderly, and the people became disruptive and they separated away from him.”
See See Siyar A’lām an-Nubalā (12/453-454).
The author of the checking and study of “Juz’un feehi Imtihān as-Sunnee minal-Bid’ee” of Abul-Faraj Abdul-Wāhid ash-Sheerāzee al-Maqdisee (died 486H) states on page 74-75 that al-Bukhāree intended that setting up a test in this particular issue was an innovation and he did not intend by the word “the test” to mean all tests, because Imām al-Bukhāree did not forbid testing absolutely in every circumstance.
The reason why he stated that the test set up for the issue of “al-lafdh”, i.e. the utterance or recital of the Qurān and whether it is created or not was not known to the Salaf. It is for this reason that Imām Ahmad bin Hanbal (rahimahullāh) used to forbid negation or affirmation in the issue of the utterance of the Qurān of the human as to its creation or otherwise. He would say: “Whoever states: ‘my utterance/recital of the Qurān is created’, then he is a Jahmee. And whoever says: ‘It is not created’, then he is an innovator.”
So the topic is too general in this form – it encompasses both the recital that is being uttered and that is the Speech of Allāh (i.e. the Qurān) and that is not created – and it encompasses the one who is reciting and his utterance itself, and that is the action of the servant and his abilities. So Imām Ahmad bin Hanbal forbid a generalised affirmation or negation.
Additionally imtihān of one who is well-known for the Sunnah and Scholarship in the Religion, especially the likes of Imām al-Bukhāree (rahimahullaah), is considered an innovation.
Shaikhul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah (died 728H) said:
“Ibn Abee Hātim narrated that Hishām bin ‘Ubaidillāh ar-Rāzee, the companion of Muhammad bin al-Hasan, the Judge of ar-Rayy imprisoned a man due to his Tajahhum (i.e. his denial of the Attributes of Allāh). He then repented from that. So he was brought to Hishām so that he may be freed. So Hishām said: “All praise is due to Allāh for this repentance.” And then he examined him and said: “To you testify that Allāh is over His Throne, distinct and separate from His creation?” So the man responded: “I testify that Allāh is over His Throne, however I do not know about Him being separate from His creation!” Hishām stated: “Put him back in prison – he has not repented!”
Majmoo’ al-Fatawa (5/49).
Hishām bin ‘Ubaidillāh ar-Rāzee, the Faqeeh (Jurist). He was one of the Imāms of the Sunnah. Died 221H.
Who is the one who should be tested?
The innovator is either a caller to his innovation or not a caller to it. The non-caller to his innovation, is either known or unknown for his innovation.
As for the open caller to his innovation, then there is no need to examine him as his affair is clear, i.e. he is warned against and abandoned.
As for the one who does not call to his innovation but is known for his bid’ah, then likewise there is no need to test him, as his affair is well-known also – he is known publicly to be upon bid’ah and misguidance. Then this one is not tested unless there is a need such as his seeking the position of a Judge over the Muslims or a teacher of the Religion to the children of the Muslims, or if he to be appointed as an Imām in a Masjid for the prayer, then he should be tested.
Abu Khadeejah Abdul-Waahid