Hadith: “My Life is a Great Good for You” and Lake-Fount Hadiths

Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad

by Shaykh Gibril F Haddad

Q. What is the status of the hadith, “My life is better for you and my death is better for you . . .” and how is it reconciled with the hadiths that mention the Prophet not being aware of the members of his community negation of their shahadah, such as, The Prophet Muhammad said, “I will be at my Lake-Fount (Kauthar) waiting for whoever will come to me. Then some people will be taken away from me where upon I will say, ‘My followers!’ It will be said, ‘You do not know they turned Apostates as renegades (deserted their religion).” al-Bukhari 9.99.172

A. Wa alaikum as Salam wa rahmatullah:

May Allah bless your deeds with His acceptance and increase your beneficial knowledge. This reply is in two parts. The first part is about the status and meaning of the first hadith. The second part reconciles the apparent contradiction with the second hadith by contextualizing the latter through its variant wordings.

I. The Hadith “Hayati Khayrun Lakum

The Prophet said, upon him blessings and peace: “My life is an immense good for you: you bring up new matters and new matters are brought up for you. My death, also, is an immense good for you: your actions will be shown to me; if I see goodness I shall praise Allâh and if I see evil I shall ask forgiveness of Him for you.” (H.ayâtî khayrun lakum tuh.dithûna wa yuh.dathu lakum wa-wafâtî khayrun lakum tu`rad.u a`mâlukum `alayya famâ ra’aytu min khayrin h.amidtu Allâha wa-mâ ra’aytu min sharrin istaghfartu Allâha lakum.)

Narrated from Ibn Mas`ûd by al-Bazzâr in his Musnad (5:308-309 §1925) with a sound chain of trustworthy narrators as stated by:

1. al-Suyût.î in Manâhil al-S.afâ (p. 31 §8) and al-Khas.â’is. al-Kubrâ (2:281),

2. al-Haythamî in Majma` al-Zawa’id (9:24 §91),

3. al-Zarqânî in Sharh. al-Muwat.t.a’ (1:97) and his commentary on al-Qast.allânî’s Mawâhib al-Lâduniyya.

4. al-`Irâqî in T.arh. al-Tathrîb (3:297) – his last book, as opposed to al-Mughnî `an H.aml al-Asfâr (4:148) where he questions the trustworthy rank of one of the narrators in al-Bazzâr’s chain cf. al-Zabîdî, Ith.âf (9:176-177).

5. Shihâb al-Dîn al-Khafâjî in his commentary on Qâd.î `Iyâd.’s al-Shifâ (1:102).

6. Shaykh `Abd Allâh al-Talîdî said in his Tahdhîb al-Khas.â’is. al-Kubrâ (p. 458-459 §694) that this chain is sound according to Muslim’s criterion.

7. Shaykh Mahmûd Mamdûh. in Raf` al-Minâra (p. 156-169) discusses it at length and also declares it sound.

8. Their shaykh, Sayyid `Abd Allâh ibn al-Siddîq al-Ghumârî (d. 1413/1993) declared it sound in his monograph Nihâyat al-Âmâl fî Sharh. wa-Tas.h.îh. H.adîth `Ard. al-A`mâl. Opposing these judgments, al-Albânî declares it weak in his notes on al-Qâd.î Ismâ`îl’s Fad.l al-S.alât (p. 37 n. 1) and in his Silsila D.a`îfa (2:405). It is also narrated with weak chains from Anas and – with two sound mursal chains missing the Companion-link – from the Successor Bakr ibn `Abd Allâh al-Muzanî by Ibn Sa`d (2:194) and Ismâ`îl al-Qâd.î (d. 282) in his Fad.l al-S.alât `alâ al-Nabî sallAllahu `alayhi wa-Sallam (p. 36-37 §25-26). The latter chain was declared sound by:

9. Mullâ al-Qârî in Sharh. al-Shifâ (1:102),

10. Shaykh al-Islâm al-Taqî al-Subkî in Shifâ’ al-Siqâm, and

11. his critic Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Hâdî in al-S.ârim al-Munkî (p. 217) despite his excessive rigor and harshness, and may Allâh forgive him!

12. Albânî himself in his edition of Fad.l al-S.alât. A third, weak chain is related from Bakr al-Muzanî by al-H.ârith ibn Abî Usâma in his Musnad (2:884 §953) as per Ibn H.ajar in al-Mat.âlib al-`Âliya (4:23) and Ibn Sa`d in his T.abaqât as per al-Munâwî (3:401 §3771). Al-Qâd.î `Iyâd. cites it in al-Shifâ (p. 58 §6) and al-Sakhâwî in al-Qawl al-Badî` (p. 324). Al-Albânî declared the h.adîth weak on the grounds that some authorities questioned the memorization of one of its narrators, the Murji’ h.adîth Master `Abd al-Majîd ibn `Abd al-`Azîz ibn Abî Rawwâd. However, he was retained by Muslim in his S.ah.îh. and declared thiqa by Yah.yâ ibn Ma`în, Ah.mad, Abû Dâwûd, al-Nasâ’î, Ibn Shâhîn, al-Khalîlî, and al-Dâraqut.nî while al-Dhahabî lists him in Man Tukullima Fîhi wa-Huwa Muwaththaq (p. 124) as stated by Mamdûh. in Raf` al-Minâra (p. 163, 167). Al-Arna’ût. and Ma`rûf declare him thiqa in Tah.rîr al-Taqrîb (2:379 §4160) as well as `Itr in his edition of al-Dhahabî’s Mughnî (1:571 §3793) and al-Ah.dab in Zawâ’id Târîkh Baghdâd (10:464). Even if al-Albânî’s grading were hypothetically accepted, then the weak musnad narration in conjunction with the sound mursal one – graded s.ah.îh. by him – would yield a final grading of h.asan or s.ah.îh., not d.a`îf! In addition to this, Mamdûh. quoted al-Albânî’s own words in the latter’s attempted refutation of Ismâ`îl al-Ans.ârî entitled Kitâb al-Shaybânî (1:134-135) whereby “The sound mursal h.adîth is a proof in all Four Schools and other than them among the Imâms of the principles of h.adîth and fiqh, therefore it is apparent to every fair-minded person that the position whereby such a h.adîth does not form a proof only because it is mursal, is untenable.” This is one of many examples in which al-Albânî not only contradicts, but soundly refutes himself. Shaykh H.asanayn Muhammad Makhlûf wrote in his Fatâwâ Shar`iyya (1:91-92): “The hadîth means that the Prophet upon him blessings and peace, is a great good for his Community during his life, because Allâh the Exalted has preserved the Community, through the secret of the Prophet’s presence, upon him blessings and peace, from misguidance, confusion, and disagreement, and He has guided the people through the Prophet upon him blessings and peace, to the manifest truth; and that after Allâh took back the Prophet upon him blessings and peace, our connection to the latter’s goodness continues uncut and the extension of his goodness endures, overshadowing us. The deeds of the Community are shown to him every day, and he glorifies Allâh for the goodness that he finds, while he asks for His forgiveness for the small sins, and the alleviation of His punishment for the grave ones: and this is a tremendous good for us. There is therefore ‘goodness for the Community in his life, and in his death, goodness for the Community.’ Moreover, as has been established in the h.adîth, the Prophet upon him blessings and peace, is alive in his grave with a special ‘isthmus-life’ stronger than the lives of the martyrs which the Qur’ân spoke of in more than one verse. The nature of these two kinds of life cannot be known except by their Bestower, the Glorious, the Exalted. He is able to do all things. His showing the Community’s deeds to the Prophet upon him blessings and peace, as an honorific gift for him and his Community is entirely possible rationally and documented in the reports. There is no leeway for its denial; and Allâh guides to His light whomever He pleases; and Allâh knows best.”

II. The Hadith of the Lake-Fount

These hadiths refer to the hypocrites who lived around the Prophet  upon him blessings and peace, and whose outward status and designation in his life were the same as the Companions. The Prophet upon him blessings and peace, confirmed this designation when he said to Abd Allah ibn Abd Allah ibn Ubay ibn Salul who had offered to kill his own father, who was the chief hypocrite in Madina: “No, lest people say: Muhammad kills his own companions.” Note that the Prophet Muhammad upon him blessings and peace, in his immense mercy, never despaired that they would repent and he lavished even upon those of them who harmed him the most, his persistent consideration and unfathomable generosity. Thus, among those outwardly designated “Companions” will be the unrepentant hypocrites and those who committed ridda, both of whose types are in reality kuffar. Thus they will come as “Companions” but will be turned away.

“Each one proclaims his kinship to Layla / But Layla does not confirm it for any of them.”

The question remains: Why is the Prophet upon him blessings and peace, told: “‘You do not know they turned Apostates”? There are several answers to this:

1. The Prophet’s designation of them as “My Companions” and the reply of the angels: “Do you not know…” are meant as didactic disclosures to the hypocrites that although they enter into his mercy in this world, they will not be allowed to enter it in the next unless they repent beforehand. The style of this disclosure is dramatic and develops as if from a state of ignorance to a state of discovery in order for the disclosure to be more effective. However, such ignorance-then-discovery are not literal for the Prophet upon him blessings and peace. How could they be when he is the one who is prophesying that this shall take place??

2. Should we hold the view that the Prophet upon him blessings and peace, was only prophesying the general knowledge that this will take place but does not, indeed, know the personal details of those involved, hence he calls them “My Companions” literally, the answer is that the reply of the angels refers to the Murtadds of the Ummah whose ridda was kept hidden from the Prophet upon him blessings and peace, so as not to harm him. This interpretation qualifies the meaning of the hadith “Hayati khayrun lakum” and thus his knowledge in the grave excludes ridda and the murtadds as this would pain the Prophet upon him blessings and peace, to no end.

3. A variant of the fount hadith in the Nine Books shows that it includes, in fact, ALL the murtadds of the Umma until the end of time: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) came to the graveyard and said, ‘Peace be upon you, abode of the believing people and we, if God so wills, are about to join you! I love to see my brothers.’ They said, ‘Are we not your brothers, Messenger of Allah?’ He said, ‘You are my companions, and our brothers are those who have, so far, not come into the world.’ They said, ‘Messenger of Allah, how would you recognize those persons of your ummah who have not yet been born?’ He said, ‘Supposing a man had horses with white blazes on foreheads and legs among horses which were all black, tell me, would he not recognize his own horses?’ They said, ‘Certainly, Messenger of Allah.’ He said, ‘They would come with white faces and arms and legs owing to ablution, and I would arrive at the Lake-Fount before them. Some people would be driven away from my Lake-Fount as the stray camel is driven away. I would call out, ‘Come! Come!’. Then it would be said (to me), ‘These people changed themselves after you.’ I would then say, ‘Be off, be off.”

4. Another version in the two Sahihs, Sunan and Musnad alludes to the fact that the actual Companions of the Prophet upon him blessings and peace, are excluded, because he retells the fount scene as part of a dream he has just seen and from which he wakes up smiling. If the dream involved the expulsion of any of his actual Companions, it is inconceivable that he would wake up in such a state of cheer and elation: The Messenger of Allah  (may peace be upon him) was sitting among us then he dozed off. He then raised his head, smiling. We asked, ‘What makes you smile, Messenger of Allah?’ He said, ‘A Sura has just been revealed to me, and then recited: { In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Verily we have given you al-Kawthar. Therefore turn to thy Lord for the prayer and offer sacrifice, and surely thy enemy is cut off (from the good).‘ } Then he asked, ‘do you know what al-Kawthar is?’ We said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said, ‘It is a river which my Lord, the Exalted and Glorious, has promised me, and there is an abundance of good in it. It is a lake-fount and my people would come to it on the day of resurrection, and the number of tumblers there would be equal to the number of stars. A servant would be turned away from (among the people gathering there). Upon this I would say: My Lord, he is one of my people, and He (the Lord) would say: You do not know what he innovated after you.’

Benefit: Al-Zarqani in Sharh al-Muwatta‘ (1:98) mentions that Ibn Shakir narrates in his Manaqib al-Shafi`i with his chain to Yunus ibn `Abd al-A`la from his teacher al-Shafi`i that the latter said his teacher Imam Malik only regretted including one hadith in the Muwatta‘, namely, the hadith of the lake-fount. The reason for this, and Allah knows best, is that Malik typically hated for some people to be potentially confused or, worse, misled by certain hadiths connected to doctrine; in this particular case, with regard to either the Prophet’s God-given foreknowledge or the honor of his blessed Companions which the Qur’an, the Sunna, and the Consensus made categorical and obligatory knowledge. And Allah knows best.

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