First Steps Towards Understanding Islam
When I first started to study Islam, I came across the hadith of the Angel Jibreel in the forty hadith of Imam Nawawi. This was more than a hadith- this was witnessing a conversation between God’s Prophet and His Angel. The whole city of Medina was gathered around the Prophet (SAW) when a stranger appeared and begins to ask questions. My mind was shattered by the conversation and how it shaped the world we live in. Over the next several weeks, I will be providing an explanation for this incredible hadith. We will be diving deep into the ocean of God’s love and searching for the pearls that help us grasp the complexity of Islam while basking in the sun of its simplicity. The eloquence of our beloved Prophet (SAW) allowed him to explain complex theological concepts in the simplest of terms. Unfortunately for the reader, I was not blessed with such eloquence.
Today we will look at the matn (text) of the hadith, and next week I will explain the meanings, insha’Allah.
The Hadith of the Angel Jibreel
Umar ibn al-Khattab reported:
We were sitting with the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) one day when a man appeared with extremely white clothes and very black hair. There were no signs of travel on him, and we did not recognize him.
He sat in front of the Prophet, rested his knees by his knees, and placed his hands on his thighs.
The man said, “O Muhammad, tell me about Islam.” The Prophet said, “Islam is to testify there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to establish prayer, to give charity, to fast the month of Ramadan, and to perform pilgrimage to the House if a way is possible.” The man said, “You have spoken truthfully.” We were surprised that he asked him and said he was truthful.
He said, “Tell me about faith.” The Prophet said, “Faith is to believe in Allah, His angels, his Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, and to believe in providence, its good and its harm.” The man said, “You have spoken truthfully.
Tell me about excellence.” The Prophet said, “Excellence is to worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you do not see Him, He surely sees you.”
The man said, “Tell me about the final hour.” The Prophet said, “The one asked does not know more than the one asking.” The man said, “Tell me about its signs.” The Prophet said, “The slave girl will give birth to her mistress, and you will see barefoot, naked, and dependent shepherds compete in the construction of tall buildings.”
Then, the man returned, and I remained. The Prophet said, “O Umar, do you know who he was?” I said, “Allah and his messenger know best.” The Prophet said, “Verily, he was Gabriel who came to teach you your religion.”
The Journey Starts
There is so much to break down and explain in this hadith. It gives us the framework for aqida, fiqh, tasawwuf, and the last day’s signs. I am excited to begin this journey with you; God willing, we will all learn something new.