Ghamidi, Muwatta, and the Return of ‘Eisa
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
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:
إن أوّل كتاب صنّف في الإسلام كتاب ابن جريج في الآثار وحروف من التفاسير عن مجاهد وعطاء وأصحاب ابن عباس بمكة ثم كتاب معمر بن راشد الصنعاني باليمن جمع فيه سنناً منثورة مبوّبة، ثم كتاب الموطأ بالمدينة لمالك بن أنس رضي الله عنه في الفقه
” … 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 …”[ref] 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 [/ref]
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.
[ref]Studies in Early Hadith Literature, Suhail Academy, Lahore 2001 p.148 n.6 citing Hamidullah, Sahifa Hammam, footnote 43[/ref]
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.
[ref]See, Musannaf ‘Abdul Razzaq, (2nd ed.) Al-Maktab al-Islami, Beirut, 1983 vol.10 p.379 onwards[/ref]
3. Hadiths about return of ‘Eisa 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.[ref]Al-Jami of Ma’mar included in Musannaf ‘Abdul Razzaq, vol.11 pp.399-402 Hadith 20840-20846[/ref]
Here for the sake of brevity we quote only the first narration of the chapter.
عن الزهري، عن سعيد بن المسيب، أنه سمع أبا هريرة يقول: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «والذي نفسي بيده ليوشكن أن ينزل فيكم ابن مريم حكما عدلا، وإماما مقسطا، يكسر الصليب، ويقتل الخنزير، ويضع الجزية، ويفيض المال حتى لا يقبله أحد»
(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.”[ref]Ibid. Hadith 20840[/ref]
The fact that the same report narrated from Al-Zuhri by Al-Layth is recorded in Sahih Bukhari[ref]Sahih Bukhari, Book 34, hadith 425. (Hadith No. 2222 according to Fath al-Bari numbering system)[/ref] 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
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:
كتاب الموطأ بالمدينة لمالك بن أنس رضي الله عنه في الفقه
“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.”[ref]Studied in Hadith Methodology and Literature, Suhail Academy, Lahore 2002 p.84[/ref]
For this reason it is at times referred to as “fiqh-Hadith literature.”
[ref]M. Mustafa al-A’zami, On Schacht’s Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, Suhail Academy, Lahore 2004 pp.31-32[/ref]
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?
5. The Prophet’s dream about physical description of ‘Eisa reported in Muwatta
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 were 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.
6. Another categorical narration in some versions of Muwatta
In certain versions of Muwatta there is another categorical narration about ‘Eisa – may Allah bless him- relating to his pilgrimage to Makkah upon his return. Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr (d. 463/1071) writes in his work on narrations of Muwatta across its various versions.
حديث مالك عن ابن شهاب عن حنظلة بن علي الأسلمي عن أبي هريرة، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم والذي نفس محمد بيده، ليهلن ابن مريم بفج الروحاء، حاجا أو معتمرا، أو ليثنينهما. هو عند ابن وهب وسعيد بن داود وجويرية وعبدالرحمن بن القاسم ومعن بن عيسى ومحمد بن صدقة والوليد بن مسلم كلهم عن مالك وليس عند غيرهم
Malik’s report from Ibn Shihab from Hanzala bin ‘Ali Al-Aslami from Abu Huraira who reported the Messenger of Allah as saying: “By Him in Whose Hand is my life. Ibn Maryam (Jesus Christ) would certainly pronounce talbiya for Hajj or for ‘Umra or for both (simultaneously as qiran) In the valley of Rauha.” This is reported by Ibn Wahab, Sa’id bin Dawud, Juwairiya, ‘Abdul Rahman bin Al-Qasim, Ma’n bin ‘Eisa, Muhammad bin Sadaqa, and Al-Walid bin Muslim. All of them report it from Malik, and it is not reported by others.[ref]Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr, Tajid Al-Tamhid / Al-Taqassi li-hadith Al-Muwatta, Darl-Kotob Al-Ilmiya, Beirut, p. 265[/ref]
7. 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):
إن هذا العلم دين، فانظروا عمن تأخذون دينكم
“This knowledge [of religion] constitutes faith, so be wary of whom you acquire your knowledge from.”[ref]Muslim, Sahih, Dar al-Ahya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, Beirut, 2005 vol.1 p.14[/ref]
1- Ghamidi sb, it appears from that video clip, believes ‘Eisa (as) was raised up to the heavens after his death i.e. his dead body was physically raised up to the heavens. He does deny that he was raised up to the heavens ALIVE.
2- I never confused the three. Remember mere verbosity does not mean you are making a valid point. I know all these tricks.
3. I clearly mentioned that refuting Qadianis/Ahmadis scholars have refuted the other arguments. Ghamidi sb is lucky that majority of his target audience does not understand Arabic. Otherwise reflecting on e.g. Qur’an 6:61 makes it very clear that in the original sense “tawaffa” is not same as “mawt.”
And Qur’an 6:60 etc. make it clear that ‘tawaffa’ for humans is used to mean other than death as well. And yes no one including Ghamidi has the right to judge Allah as to what He should have said where and in what words. If you put to doubt one of the two primary sources it is natural to fall into these pits of pseudo-rationalism.
4- Nice way to turn away from the actual point being discussed. Do you at least agree that he erred? Or is he innocent?
5- Again no red-herrings please. Try to focus on the point at hand.
6- Of central importance is point 4 in the article if you don’t mind me bringing your attention back to it.
7- The fact that I responded to this argument should not lead you or anyone to assume that any further discussion on this subject should only be about Muwatta or any work compiled before it. Ghamidi makes absolutely no sense in rejecting rigorously authentic ahadith in Bukhari, Muslim and other known works of Hadith.
And getting back to pt.5, can anyone claim it is only through al-Zuhri that reports about return of ‘Eisa (AS) have reached us. (This is not to say that whatever objections hadith rejecters of different hues have levied against Imam al-Zuhri in recent times are valid in any right)
1- I did clearly say that Ghamidi denies his physical ascension being alive. So confusion is not with me but rather you trying to make excuses for the guy.
2- Qadianis explicitly deny the return of ‘Eisa ibn Maryam (AS). They twist ahadith and your dear one out-rightly rejects them. But they are at par in denying the return of ‘Eisa the son of Mary the one who came to guide the Israelites some 2000 years ago. I am averse to useless sophistication.
3- Well Muwatta being the first book or not is secondary issue. Primary issue is how he built his argument about Muwatta. This is cunning to say the least. And I can see you not showing any interest in that either. And now when you read this comment do not jump from pt.2 straight to pt.4 please.
4- To assert that there are narrations through isnad not involving al-Zuhri does not require going through “ALL” the hadith reports on the subject. Care to see in Sahih Muslim alone and you will get the answer. Sahih Muslim is a hadith book if you may not know.
5- There are clear indications in the Qur’an. Subjective reasoning by mere ordinary mortals won’t lead us anywhere but authentic sayings of the Prophet -may Allah bless him- in commentary to verse(s) can. (e.g. see hadith reports traced back to the Holy Prophet (saaw) in commentary to Qur’an 43:61 in Mustadrak al-Hakim and Sahih Ibn Hibban).
Further, hadith reports about his descent reach the degree of tawatur which is undoubtedly a categorical evidence useful for any purpose. IF you deny that it means you deny that hadith is also a primary source and in that case all discussion -if it takes places then- will be about the authority of hadith. Btw, to me anyone who rejects hadith’s status as the PRIMARY source or rejects what is proven from mutawatir hadiths is not a believer anymore.
6- Real point is how much sense it makes to build an argument around Muwatta the way Ghamidi did.
Waqar Akbar Cheema