Lessons from the journey of Mu’adh ibn Jabal to Yemen
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
The Prophet sent Mu’adh ibn Jabal to Yemen in order to call the people to Islam and teach them the practices of the religion. There are a number of lessons we can learn from the instructions the Prophet gave to him.
Ibn Abbas reported: When the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, sent Mu’adh to Yemen, he said to him:
إِنَّكَ تَأْتِي قَوْمًا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ فَادْعُهُمْ إِلَى شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ فَإِنْ هُمْ أَطَاعُوا لِذَلِكَ فَأَعْلِمْهُمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ افْتَرَضَ عَلَيْهِمْ خَمْسَ صَلَوَاتٍ فِي كُلِّ يَوْمٍ وَلَيْلَةٍ فَإِنْ هُمْ أَطَاعُوا لِذَلِكَ فَأَعْلِمْهُمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ افْتَرَضَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُؤْخَذُ مِنْ أَغْنِيَائِهِمْ فَتُرَدُّ فِي فُقَرَائِهِمْ فَإِنْ هُمْ أَطَاعُوا لِذَلِكَ فَإِيَّاكَ وَكَرَائِمَ أَمْوَالِهِمْ وَاتَّقِ دَعْوَةَ الْمَظْلُومِ فَإِنَّهُ لَيْسَ بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَ اللَّهِ حِجَابٌ
Verily, you are coming to a people among the people of the Book, so call them to testify there is no God but Allah and I am the Messenger of Allah. If they accept that, then teach them that Allah has obligated five prayers in each day and night.
If they accept that, then teach them that Allah as obligated charity to be taken from the rich and given to the poor. If they accept that, beware not to take from the best of their wealth. Be on guard from the supplication of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it and Allah.
Source: Sahih Muslim 19, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi
In this tradition, the Prophet instructed Mu’adh to introduce Islam to the people in gradual steps, starting with the most important beliefs, the testimony of faith and monotheism (tawheed), and moving onto the next pillars of prayer and charity.
As such, when calling people to Islam, we should call people to Islam in steps, starting with the most important beliefs and subsequently introducing the most important practices. Many people find it difficult to apply everything in Islam at once, so counselling them to begin applying Islam gradually will make it easier for them to enter into Islam fully.
Making the transition to Islam easier for people was an important part of the Prophet’s instructions.
Abu Burda reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, sent Mu’adh to Yemen and he said:
يَسِّرَا وَلَا تُعَسِّرَا وَبَشِّرَا وَلَا تُنَفِّرَا وَتَطَاوَعَا وَلَا تَخْتَلِفَا
Make things easy and do not make things difficult. Give glad tidings and do not repel people. Cooperate with each other and do not become divided.
Source: Sahih Bukhari 2873, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi
The Prophet instructed Mu’adh to cooperate with the people and not to be a dictator over them, for being too hard on them would cause division. The Quran was revealed gradually over twenty three years, so people and society should be given the duties of Islam gradually.
An-Nawawi comments on this tradition, saying:
وَفِي هَذَا الْحَدِيثِ الْأَمْرُ بِالتَّبْشِيرِ بِفَضْلِ اللَّهِ وَعَظِيمِ ثَوَابِهِ وَجَزِيلِ عَطَائِهِ وَسِعَةِ رَحْمَتِهِ وَالنَّهْيُ عَنِ التَّنْفِيرِ بِذِكْرِ التَّخْوِيفِ وَأَنْوَاعِ الْوَعِيدِ مَحْضَةً مِنْ غَيْرِ ضَمِّهَا إِلَى التَّبْشِيرِ وَفِيهِ تَأْلِيفُ مَنْ قَرُبَ إِسْلَامُهُ وَتَرْكُ التَّشْدِيدِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَذَلِكَ مَنْ قَارَبَ الْبُلُوغَ مِنَ الصِّبْيَانِ وَمَنْ بَلَغَ وَمَنْ تَابَ مِنَ الْمَعَاصِي كُلُّهُمْ يُتَلَطَّفُ بِهِمْ وَيُدَرَّجُونَ فِي أَنْوَاعِ الطَّاعَةِ قَلِيلًا قَلِيلًا وَقَدْ كَانَتْ أُمُورُ الْإِسْلَامِ فِي التَّكْلِيفِ عَلَى التَّدْرِيجِ
In this tradition is the command to give glad tidings of the favor of Allah, his great reward, his plentiful gifts, and his vast mercy. And in this is the prohibition of alienating people by mentioning the fear of Allah and types of warning alone without including glad tidings.
And in this is bringing hearts together of those who are close to Islam and to avoid harshness with them, likewise with whoever among children near or at the age of maturity and who has repented from sin. All of them should be treated with kindness and gradually encouraged to perform acts of obedience little by little. Responsibility for the affairs of Islam should be done gradually.
Source: Sharh Sahih Muslim 1732
The Prophet warned us that overburdening ourselves and others in the religion will ultimately cause us to fail.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
إِنَّ الدِّينَ يُسْرٌ وَلَنْ يُشَادَّ الدِّينَ أَحَدٌ إِلَّا غَلَبَهُ فَسَدِّدُوا وَقَارِبُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالْغَدْوَةِ وَالرَّوْحَةِ وَشَيْءٍ مِنْ الدُّلْجَةِ
Verily, the religion is ease, and no one burdens himself in religion except that it overcomes him. So be moderate, seek closeness to Allah, give glad tidings, and gain strength for worship in the morning and the night.
Source: Sahih Bukhari 39, Grade: Sahih
The Prophet warned Mu’adh not to wrong or oppress anyone, even if they are not Muslims, because Allah always responds to the supplication of the oppressed.
Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
اتَّقُوا دَعْوَةَ الْمَظْلُومِ وَإِنْ كَانَ كَافِرًا فَإِنَّهُ لَيْسَ دُونَهَا حِجَابٌ
Beware of the supplication of the oppressed, even if he is an unbeliever, for there is no screen between it and Allah.
Source: Musnad Ahmad 12140, Grade: Sahih
The Prophet warned Mu’adh not to use his position of authority to live extravagantly, but rather he should practice temperance (zuhd), spending his wealth in charity and renouncing the vanities of worldly life.
Mu’adh ibn Jabal reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, sent me to Yemen and he said:
إِيَّاكَ وَالتَّنَعُّمَ فَإِنَّ عِبَادَ اللَّهِ لَيْسُوا بِالْمُتَنَعِّمِينَ
Beware of luxury. Verily, the servants of Allah do not live luxuriously.
Source: Musnad Ahmad 21600, Grade: Hasan
The Prophet gave Mu’adh instructions for properly applying Islamic guidance and principles if nothing explicit can be found in the Quran and Sunnah.
Harith ibn Amr reported: Some men among the companions of Mu’adh said the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, sent him to Yemen and the Prophet said:
How will you judge?
Mu’adh said, “I will judge according to what is in the Book of Allah.” The Prophet said:
فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ
What if it is not in the Book of Allah?
Mu’adh said, “Then with the tradition (sunnah) of the Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet said:
فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ فِي سُنَّةِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ
What if it is not in the tradition of the Messenger of Allah?
Mu’adh said, “Then I will strive to form an opinion (ijtihad).” The Prophet said:
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي وَفَّقَ رَسُولَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ
All praise is due to Allah who has made suitable the messenger of the Messenger of Allah.
Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 1327, Grade: Sahih
This narration demonstrates the proper procedure for applying Islamic guidance that would eventually develop into the discipline of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh).
First, Muslim scholars should judge according to the explicit texts of the Quran and Sunnah and the consensus of the companions. If a clear answer is not found in these texts, then the scholars should apply rational principles such as analogy (qiyas), equity (istihsan), public interest (maslahah mursalah), and consideration of custom (‘urf). The use of these rational principles is called the practice of independent legal reasoning (ijtihad).
Scholars would later extract the purposes and objectives of Islamic law as a guiding philosophy when applying rational principles to new situations, a discipline known as the objectives of the Law (maqasid ash-sharia). These objectives include the protection of life, religion, property, family, and intellect, as well as the pursuit of mercy, justice, and welfare.
لكننا نعنى بالمصلحة المحافظة على مقصود الشرع ومقصود الشرع من الخلق خمسة وهو أن يحفظ عليهم دينهم وأنفسهم وعقلهم ونسلهم ومالهم فكل ما يتضمن حفظ هذه الأصول الخمسة فهو مصلحة وكل ما يفوت هذه الأصول الخمسة فهو مفسدة
Welfare which we mean here is the protection of the objectives of the law (sharia). Namely, the objectives of the law are five in creation: the protection of religion, life, intellect, family relations, and property. Everything that advances the protection of these five fundamentals is considered benefit, and everything which fails to protect these five fundamentals is considered corruption.
Source: Al-Mustasfa min Ilm al-Usul 287
Ibn Al-Qayyim wrote:
فَإِنَّ الشَّرِيعَةَ مَبْنَاهَا وَأَسَاسُهَا عَلَى الْحِكَمِ وَمَصَالِحِ الْعِبَادِ فِي الْمَعَاشِ وَالْمَعَادِ وَهِيَ عَدْلٌ كُلُّهَا وَرَحْمَةٌ كُلُّهَا وَمَصَالِحُ كُلُّهَا وَحِكْمَةٌ كُلُّهَا فَكُلُّ مَسْأَلَةٍ خَرَجَتْ عَنْ الْعَدْلِ إلَى الْجَوْرِ وَعَنْ الرَّحْمَةِ إلَى ضِدِّهَا وَعَنْ الْمَصْلَحَةِ إلَى الْمَفْسَدَةِ وَعَنْ الْحِكْمَةِ إلَى الْبَعْثِ فَلَيْسَتْ مِنْ الشَّرِيعَةِ وَإِنْ أُدْخِلَتْ فِيهَا بِالتَّأْوِيلِ
Indeed, the law is founded upon wisdom and welfare for the servants in this life and the afterlife. In its entirety it is justice, mercy, benefit, and wisdom. Every matter which abandons justice for tyranny, mercy for cruelty, benefit for corruption, and wisdom for foolishness is not a part of the law even if it was introduced therein by an interpretation.
Ibn Al-Qayyim also wrote:
قَدْ بَيَّنَ سُبْحَانَهُ بِمَا شَرَعَهُ مِنْ الطُّرُقِ أَنَّ مَقْصُودَهُ إقَامَةُ الْعَدْلِ بَيْنَ عِبَادِهِ وَقِيَامُ النَّاسِ بِالْقِسْطِ فَأَيُّ طَرِيقٍ اُسْتُخْرِجَ بِهَا الْعَدْلُ وَالْقِسْطُ فَهِيَ مِنْ الدِّينِ وَلَيْسَتْ مُخَالِفَةً لَهُ
Allah the Exalted has made clear in his law that the objective is the establishment of justice between His servants and fairness among the people, so whichever path leads to justice and fairness is part of the religion and can never oppose it.
Source: Turuq Al-Hukmiyyah 13
Finally, the last advice the Prophet gave to Mu’adh was to behave with good character, as it is the character of a Muslim which can most strongly impart a good impression of Islam to those being called.
Mu’adh ibn Jabal reported: The last advice the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, gave to me when I put my foot in the stirrup was that he said:
أَحْسِنْ خُلُقَكَ لِلنَّاسِ يَا مُعَاذُ بْنَ جَبَلٍ
Make your character excellent for the people, O Mu’adh ibn Jabal.
Source: Muwatta 1671, Grade: Sahih
Allah has commanded the believers to preach Islam in a beautiful manner. If we preach Islam in an ugly and harsh way, we will be a cause of misguidance for the people. But if we preach Islam in a beautiful way with good character, the people will be more receptive to the message.
ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Verily, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way and He is most knowing of who is guided.
Surah An-Nahl 16:125
These are some of the lessons we learn from journey of Mu’adh ibn Jabal to Yemen. Likewise, we should apply this guidance when calling others to Islam in our time.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.