Puncturing the Devil


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Puncturing the Devil _______________________________

Puncturing the Devil’s Dreamabout the Hadiths of Najd and Tamim

Kerim Fenari

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bismi’Llahi’r-Rahmani’r-Rahim

The land known as Najd, which for two centuries has been the crucible of the Wahhabi doctrine, is the subject of a body of interesting hadiths and early narrations which repay close analysis. Among the best-known of these hadiths is the relation of Imam al-Bukhari in which Ibn Umar said: ‘The Prophet (s.w.s.) mentioned: “O Allah, give us baraka in our Syria, O Allah, give us baraka in our Yemen.” They said: “And in our Najd?” and he said: “O Allah, give us baraka in our Syria, O Allah, give us baraka in our Yemen.” They said: “And in our Najd?” and I believe that he said the third time: “In that place are earthquakes, and seditions, and in that place shall rise the devil’s horn [qarn al-shaytan].”’

This hadith is clearly unpalatable to the Najdites themselves, some of whom to this day strive to persuade Muslims from more reputable districts that the hadith does not mean what it clearly says. One device used by such apologists is to utilise a definition which includes Iraq in the frontiers of Najd. By this manoeuvre, the Najdis draw the conclusion that the part of Najd which is condemned so strongly in this hadith is in fact Iraq, and that Najd proper is excluded. Medieval Islamic geographers contest this inherently strange thesis (see for instance Ibn Khurradadhbih, al-Masalik wa’l-mamalik [Leiden, 1887], 125; Ibn Hawqal, Kitab Surat al-ard [Beirut, 1968],18); and limit the northern extent of Najd at Wadi al-Rumma, or to the deserts to the south of al-Mada’in. There is no indication that the places in which the second wave of sedition arose, such as Kufa and Basra, were associated in the mind of the first Muslims with the term ‘Najd’. On the contrary, these places are in every case identified as lying within the land of Iraq.

The evasion of this early understanding of the term in order to exclude Najd, as usually understood, from the purport of the hadith of Najd, has required considerable ingenuity from pro-Najdi writers in the present day. Some apologists attempt to conflate this hadith with a group of other hadiths which associate the ‘devil’s horn’ with ‘the East’, which is supposedly a generic reference to Iraq. While it is true that some late-medieval commentaries also incline to this view, modern geographical knowledge clearly rules it out. Even the briefest glimpse at a modern atlas will show that a straight line drawn to the east of al-Madina al-Munawwara does not pass anywhere near Iraq, but passes some distance to the south of Riyadh; that is to say, through the exact centre of Najd. The hadiths which speak of ‘the East’ in this context hence support the view that Najd is indicated, not Iraq.

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