Merits of al-Sham al-Sharif
Forty Narrations on The Immense Merits of al-Shâm
Compiled and Translated by GF Haddad

The Arabic word al-Shâm has been left untranslated for lack of an English equivalent. It is originally written and pronounced al-Sha'm and means "the North" with relation to the Hijaz, covering the lands of present-day Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan from the Euphrates to Sinai. Ibn Hibban said: "Al-Shâm begins at Bâlis [East of Aleppo] and ends at `Arish Misr [at the border of Egypt]."1 The lexical and geographical inclusion of al-Qudus (Jerusalem) in al-Shâm in the language of the Arabs is established by the narration of Salman al-Farisi's question to the Christians of Persia: "Where is the origin of this religion?" They replied: "In al-Shâm."2 In modern usage al-Shâm often means old Damascus. The Arabic term for the latter is Dimashq, which is cited in the authentic hadith.3

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I. In the Noble Qur'an

1. Allah Most High blessed the land of Shâm when He said {Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far Distant Place of Worship the neighborhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Nearer, the Seer} (17:1).

The Prophet said: "I was brought the Burâq, a tall white beast, bigger than a donkey but smaller than a mule. He could place his hooves at the farthest boundary of his gaze. I mounted it until I arrived at the Hallowed House (Bayt al-Maqdis). I tied it at the ring where the Prophets tied it before him. I entered the mosque and prayed two rak`as there.4

Other narrations of the hadith of isrâ' and mi`raj state that the following took place during the Prophet's flight on top of the Burâq:

Gibrîl said: "Alight and pray here." The Prophet did so then remounted. Gibrîl said: "Do you know where you prayed?" He said no. Gibrîl said: "You prayed in Madyan5 at the tree of Musa."6 The Burâq continued his lightning flight, then Gibrîl said: "Alight and pray here." He did so then remounted, then Gibrîl said: "Do you know where you prayed?" He said no. Gibrîl said: "You prayed at the mountain of Sînâ' where Allah addressed Musa." Then he reached a land where the palaces of al-Shâm became visible to him. Gibrîl said to him: "Alight and pray." He did so and remounted, then the Burâq continued his lightning flight and Gibrîl said: "Do you know where you prayed?" He said no. Gibrîl said: "You prayed in Bayt Lahm, where `Isa ibn Maryam was born."... He continued travelling until he reached the city of the Hallowed House and he entered it by its Southern gate. He dismounted the Burâq and tied it at the gate of the mosque, using the ring by which the Prophets tied it before him. "We entered the mosque from a gate through which the sun and the moon could be seen when they set. I prayed in the mosque for as long as Allah wished."7

The commentaries are unanimous in adducing the Prophet's reports whereby {the Far Distant Place of Worship the neighborhood whereof We have blessed} is the divine sanctuary in al-Qudus in Shâm.8 Ka`b al-Ahbar said: "Allah has blessed al-Shâm from the Euphrates to al-`Arish [Egypt's border]."9

2. Allah Most High also said {And We caused the folk who were devised to inherit the eastern parts of the land and the western parts thereof which We had blessed} (7:137), meaning Shâm, as narrated from the authorities in tafsîr among the Tâbi`în.10

3. Allah Most High also said {And We verily did allot unto the Children of Israel a beautiful abode (mubawwa'a sidq), and provided them with good things} (10:93). The scholars of the Tâbi`în explained the beautiful abode to mean Shâm.11

4. Allah Most High also said {And We rescued him [Ibrahim] and Lot (and brought them) to the land which We have blessed for (all) peoples} (21:71) meaning Shâm according to the Salaf as reported by the commentators.12

5. Allah Most High also said {And unto Solomon (We subdued) the wind in its raging. It set by His command toward the land which We had blessed} (21:81), meaning Shâm.13 Ibn `Abd al-Salam said that the scholars differed whether this blessing consisted in the presence of the Prophets and Messengers, or with the abundance of harvests and water.14

6. Allah Most High also said {And We set, between them and the towns which We had blessed, towns easy to be seen, and We made the stage between them easy, (saying): Travel in them safely both by night and day} (34:18). The early scholars have identified those blessed towns as Shâm.15

7. Allah Most High also swore {By the fig and the olive, By Mount Sînâ} (95:1-2), meaning by "the fig" al-Shâm and by "the olive" Palestine, which is also in Shâm, as is Sînâ.16 Each of these three symbols and the places they stand for refers in turn to a Prophet, respectively Ibrahim `alayhi as-Salam, `Isa `alayhi as-Salam, and Musa `alayhi as-Salam.

8. The divine mention of "the first gathering" in the verse {He it is Who has caused those of the People of the Scripture who disbelieved to go forth from their homes unto the first gathering} (59:2) is an allusion to the second and final gathering, both of which take place in Shâm.17

9. The land of refuge for `Isa ibn Maryam `alayhi as-Salam and his mother in the verse {And We made the son of Mary and his mother a portent, and We gave them refuge on a height (rabwa), a place of flocks and water springs} (23:50) was Damascus according to Ibn `Abbas, `Abd Allah ibn Salam, Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib, and al-Hasan al-Basri.18

10. His - the Most High - statement {many columned Iram, The like of which was not created in the lands} (89:7-8) was explained by Bishr ibn al-Harith to refer to Shâm.19

II. In the Noble Hadith [below]

NOTES

1In Ibn Hibban (16:294). Bâlis is sixty miles East of Aleppo, at the South-East bend of the Euphrates, while `Arish Misr is the first Egyptian town on the side of Shâm, on the Mediterranean coast as defined in Mu`jam al-Buldan. Al-Suyuti in al-Durr al-Manthur mentions that Ibn `Asakir narrates something similar from the Tâbi`î Abu al-Aghdash. This definition is confirmed by the report narrated from Ka`b al-Ahbar below.

2Narrated as part of a very long hadith by Ahmad in his Musnad and al-Tabarani, both with sound chains as stated by al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa'id, and by al-Bazzar in his Musnad.

3Cf. below, Part I #9 and Part II #14, 23, 26, 27, and 36.

4Narrated as part of a long hadith from Anas by Muslim and Ahmad.

5A city on the shore of the Red Sea bordering Tabuk near the valley of Shu`ayb.

6The tree under which Musa `alayhi as-Salam rested from fatigue and hunger during his flight from Fir`awn.

7Narrated as part of a long hadith from Anas by al-Nasa'i with a sound chain and from Shaddad ibn Aws by al-Bayhaqi who declared it sound in Dala'il al-Nubuwwa (2:355-357), and by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir and al-Bazzar with a sound chain as indicated by al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa'id. See Ibn Hajar's Mukhtasar (1:90-91 #32).

8See al-Suhayli, al-Ta`rif wa al-I`lam fi ma Ubhima fi al-Qur'an min al-Asma' wa al-A`lam (p. 96) and the Tafsirs of Abu al-Su`ud (5:155), Ibn Kathir (3:22-24), al-Jalalayn (p. 365), al-Durr al-Manthur (5:182, 5:195, 5:222), al-Tabari (15:5), al-Wahidi (2:627), al-Nahhas (4:119), etc. Also al-Mubarakfuri, Tuhfa (8:450).

9In al-Suyuti, Mufhimat al-Aqran fi Mubhamat al-Qur'an (p. 21).

10Narrated from al-Hasan and Qatada by `Abd al-Razzaq, `Abd ibn Humayd in his Musnad, al-Tarabi in his Tafsir, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Abu al-Shaykh, and Ibn `Asakir as mentioned in al-Suyuti's al-Durr al-Manthur and Ibn `Abd al-Salam in Targhib Ahl al-Islam (p. 13-14).

11Narrated from Qatada, al-Dahhak, and Ibn Zayd by Ibn al-Mundhir as stated by al-Suyuti in Mufhimat al-Aqran fi Mubhamat al-Qur'an (p. 115) and Ibn `Abd al-Salam in Targhib Ahl al-Islam (p. 14). See the Tafsirs of Abu al-Su`ud (4:174), al-Jalalayn (p. 281), al-Durr al-Manthur (4:389), al-Tabari (11:166-167), `Abd al-Razzaq (2:297), Ibn al-Jawzi (4:62), al-Shawkani (2:485), al-Nahhas (3:316), etc.

12See the Tafsirs of Abu al-Su`ud (6:77), Ibn Kathir (3:186), al-Jalalayn (p. 427), al-Durr al-Manthur (5:642-643), al-Tabari (11:166, 17:45-47), al-Qurtubi (11:305), al-Wahidi (2:720), Ibn al-Jawzi (5:368), al-Shawkani (3:416), etc.

13See the Tafsirs of Abu al-Su`ud (6:80), al-Jalalayn (p. 428), al-Tabari (17:55), al-Qurtubi (11:322), Ibn al-Jawzi (5:370-374), al-Shawkani (3:419) etc.

14Ibn `Abd al-Salam, Targhib (p. 13).

15See the Tafsirs of Abu al-Su`ud (7:128), Ibn Kathir (3:534), al-Tha`alibi (3:244), al-Jalalayn (p. 566), al-Durr al-Manthur (6:692), al-Tabari (22:83-84), al-Qurtubi (14:289), al-Wahidi (2:882), Mujahid (2:525), Ibn al-Jawzi (6:448), al-Shawkani (4:321), al-Nahhas (5:410) etc.

16See the Tafsirs of Abu al-Su`ud (9:174), Ibn Kathir (4:527), al-Jalalayn (p. 813), al-Durr al-Manthur (8:554-555), al-Tabari (30:239), `Abd al-Razzaq (3:382), al-Qurtubi (20:111), al-Wahidi (2:1214), Ibn al-Jawzi (9:168-170), al-Shawkani (5:464-465), etc. and al-Bakri's Mu`jam ma Ustu`jam (3:898).

17See the Tafsirs of al-Jassas (5:316), Abu al-Su`ud (8:225), al-Tha`alibi (4:281-282), al-Jalalayn (p. 730), al-Durr al-Manthur (1:730), al-Tabari (28:28-29), `Abd al-Razzaq (3:282), al-Qurtubi (18:2), al-Wahidi (2:1080), Ibn al-Jawzi (8:204), al-Shawkani (5:195, 5:199), etc. and al-Hakim (1990 ed. 2:525). See also the report cited below (#28).

18Cf. Ibn Abi Shayba (6:409) with a sound chain to Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib, al-Suyuti in Mufhamat al-Aqran (p. 148), al-Haythami (7:72), Ibn `Abd al-Salam in Targhib Ahl al-Islam (p. 27), and the Tafsirs of Abu al-Su`ud (6:137), Ibn Kathir (3:247), al-Thawri (p. 216), al-Durr al-Manthur (6:101-102), al-Tabari (18:26), `Abd al-Razzaq (3:45), al-Qurtubi (12:126), al-Wahidi (2:748), Ibn al-Jawzi (5:476), al-Shawkani (3:486-487), al-Nahhas (4:461-462), etc. as well as Yaqut's Mu`jam al-Buldan (2:464) and al-Bakri's Mu`jam ma Ustu`jam (2:637).

One narration of this commentary has a chain from Ibn al-Musayyib up to `Abd Allah ibn Salam but its authenticity was questioned by Ibn Abi `Asim (d. 287) in his `Ilal al-Hadith (2:65-66) on the grounds that none of the authorities went further up than Ibn al-Musayyib. However, the hadith master Abu Muhammad al-Ramahurmuzi's (d. 362) narration in al-Muhaddith al-Fasil Bayn al-Rawi wa al-Wa`i ("The Hadith Scholar That Differentiates Between Narrators and Containers") (p. 475) does narrate it up to `Abd Allah ibn Salam with his chain, and both Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir (3:247) and al-Qurtubi in his (12:126) mention Ibn Salam's narration. Note that al-Dhahabi lauded al-Ramahurmuzi's book in his Siyar (1996 ed. 12:233) and related that al-Silafi carried it wherever he went. Dr. Nur al-Din `Itr pointed out in a class communication that it was the first comprehensive book on hadith science ever written, second to which came the works of al-Hakim, al-Khatib, and Ibn al-Salah.

Another narration raises this commentary to the Prophet from Abu Umama as narrated by Ibn `Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq (1:192), Tammam al-Razi in al-Fawa'id (2:11), al-Raba`i in Fada'il al-Sham wa Dimashq (p. 37), and al-`Ajluni in Kashf al-Khafa' (1:544). However, its chain is very weak due to Maslama ibn `Ali who is discarded as a narrator (matrûk).

19Narrated from al-Maqbiri by al-Tabari in his Tafsir (30:111) and others.

II. In the Noble Hadith

The Prophet called al-Shâm the purest of the lands of Allah Most High, the place where Religion, belief and safety are found in the time of dissension, and the home of the saints for whose sake Allah sends sustenance to the people and victory to Muslims over their enemies. The following is a list of hadiths relevant to the immense merits of al-Shâm:

11. The Prophet said: "Blessings to al-Shâm, blessings to al-Shâm, blessings to al-Shâm!" (yâ tûbâ li al-Shâm). They asked why and he replied: "Because the wings of the angels of the Merciful are lowered over it."1

Ibn `Abd al-Salam said: "This is an allusion to the fact that Allah has put certain angels in charge of guarding Shâm and protecting it. This is in agreement with the hadith of `Abd Allah ibn Hawala [#18] that states that they [the people of Shâm] are under His guarantee (kafâla) and His care."2

12. The Prophet said: "The heartland of the Abode of Islam is al-Shâm." (`Uqr dâr al-islâm al-shâm.)3 A longer version states that Salama ibn Nufayl al-Hadrami al-Sakuni came to the Prophet and said: "I have fattened the horses and laid down arms, for war has rested its burdens and there is no more fighting." The Prophet said: "Now has fighting come! There shall not cease to be a group in my Community that shall remain victorious over all people. Allah shall cause the hearts of some to go astray and those shall fight them and receive from them His sustenance, until His command comes to pass as they are in that state. Lo! Verily, the heartland of the Believers is al-Shâm (`uqr dâr al-mu'minîn al-shâm), and immense good remains tied to the forelocks of horses until the Day of Resurrection."4

Ibn `Abd al-Salam said: "In this hadith the Prophet informed us of the apostasy that would take place on the part of those whose hearts Allah would cause to go astray, and the fighting against the apostates. In his telling us about residing in Shâm there is a sign that to live there consists in waging war for His sake, and news that Shâm shall remain a fortified borderline city until the Day of Resurrection. We have witnessed this, for the outer borders of Shâm are permanent front lines."5

13. Strengthened by the above report is that of the Prophet's saying: "The people of Shâm, their spouses, their offspring, and their male and female servants are garrisoned for the sake of Allah murâbitûn). Therefore, whoever takes up residence in one of the cities of Shâm, he is in a garrison-post or fortified borderline city and he is a mujâhid."6

14. The Prophet is also related to say: "A party of my Community shall not cease to fight at the gates of Damascus and its surroundings and at the gates of Bayt al-Maqdis and its surroundings. The betrayal or desertion of whoever deserts them shall not harm them in the least. They shall remain victorious, standing for truth, until the Hour rises."7 Al-Nawawi explained the term "the Hour" to mean "the spread of the wind [that shall take away the lives of the Believers]."8

15. The Prophet said: "The anti-Christ shall come out into my Community and endure for forty days or months or years" - the narrator was unsure - "after which Allah shall send `Isa ibn Maryam, who looks exactly like `Urwa ibn Mas`ud. `Isa shall pursue the anti-Christ and destroy him. Then people shall live for seven years without the least enmity among them. Then Allah shall send a cool wind from the direction of al-Shâm, whereupon none shall remain on the face of the earth that has an atom's worth of goodness in their heart except they shall be taken away..."9 The Prophet described that wind as having "the scent of musk and the touch of silk."10

16. The Prophet said: "O Allah, bless us in our Shâm and our Yemen!" They said: "O Messenger of Allah! and our Najd!" He did not reply but again said: "O Allah, bless us in our Shâm and our Yemen!" They said: "O Messenger of Allah! and our Najd!" He did not reply but again said: "O Allah, bless us in our Shâm and our Yemen!" They said: "O Messenger of Allah! and our Najd!" He said: "Thence shall come great upheavals and dissensions, and from it shall issue the side of the head of Shaytân."11

Som people claim that Najd means Iraq in the terminology of the hadith but this is incorrect.12 Al-Nawawi said: "Najd is the area that lies between Jurâsh (in Yemen) all the way to the rural outskirts of Kûfâ (in Iraq), and its Western border is the Hijaz. The author of al-Matali` said: Najd is all a province of al-Yamama."13 Al-Fayruzabadi said: "Its geographical summit is Tihama and Yemen, its bottom is Iraq and Shâm, and it begins at Dhatu `Irqin14 from the side of the Hijaz."15 Al-Khattabi said: "Najd lies Eastward, and to those who are in Madina, their Najd is the desert of Iraq and its vicinities, which all lie East of the people of Madina. The original meaning of najd is `elevated land' as opposed to ghawr which means declivity. Thus, Tihama is all part of al-Ghawr, and Mecca is part of Tihama."16 This is confirmed by Ibn al-Athir's definition: "Najd is any elevated terrain, and it is a specific name for what lies outside the Hijaz and adjacent to Iraq."17 Similarly al-Dawudi said: "Najd lies in the vicinity of Iraq."18 Iraq itself lexicaly means river-shore or sea-shore, in reference to the Euphrates and the Tigris.19 In other words, Najd is the mountainous area East of the Hijaz, bordering it and Iraq at the same time and actually separating them. This is confirmed by the verse of the poet `Awamm ibn al-Asbagh:

Next to Batni Nakhlin there is a mountain called the Black One: One half of it is Hijazi, another half Najdi.20

A further confirmation is in the account of the qunût of the Prophet against the tribes of Najd. `Amir ibn Malik came to the Prophet in the 4th year of the Hijra, neither accepting nor rejecting Islam. Instead he said: "O Muhammad! If you send some of your Companions to the people of Najd to call them to your affair, I have hope that they shall respond favorably to you." The Prophet replied: "Truly I fear for them [harm] from the people of Najd" (innî akshâ `alayhim ahla Najd). `Amir said: "I proclaim that they are under my protection." The Prophet then sent seventy men from the elite of the Ansar. They travelled until they alighted at the Well of Ma`una, at which time they sent Haram ibn Malhan with the letter of the Messenger of Allah to `Amir ibn al-Tufayl. The latter did not look at the letter but instead killed Haram ibn Malhan. Then he called upon the Banu `Amir for assistance to kill the rest of the Muslim group, but they declined to challenge `Amir ibn Malik's protectorate. So `Amir ibn al-Tufayl called upon the following tribes of the Banu Sulaym: `Usayya, Ra`l, Dhakwan, and they responded to him. They formed an expedition and surrounded the group with their mounts. The Muslims were killed to the last man but for `Amr ibn Umayya al-Dumari who returned to Madina. The Prophet was deeply affected by their death and remained supplicating (yaqnutu) for one month during the dawn prayer against the (Najdi) Banu Sulaym tribes of Ra`l, Dhakwan, Banu Lahyan, and `Usayya.21

Another proof is that no-one from Iraq entered Islam in the time of the Prophet but only after his time. However, the Prophet sent military expeditions to Najd, went there himself, and some Najdis even accepted Islam as shown by the following hadiths:

(a) It is narrated from Talha ibn `Ubayd Allah in al-Bukhari and Muslim that "a man came to the Messenger of Allah from the people of Najd (min ahli najd), disheveled, the din of his voice audible although he was unintelligible..." to the end of the hadith in which the man said, speaking of the Five Pillars of Islam: "By Allah! I shall never add to this nor subtract from it," whereupon the Prophet said: "He shall obtain success if he proves truthful." As stated by al-Khatib,22 this is a different man from that mentioned in the hadith of Anas in al-Bukhari as coming into the Mosque with his camel and asking "Which one of you is Muhammad?" later identifying himself as Dimam ibn Tha`laba al-Sa`di al-Bakri from the Banu Sa`d ibn Bakr tribe.

(b) The hadith of Abu Hurayra in the two Sahihs and the Sunan: "The Messenger of Allah sent a mounted detachment towards Najd and they brought a man from Banu Hanifa named Thumama ibn Uthal..."

(c) The hadith of Abu Hurayra in Abu Dawud with a good chain, "We went out to Najd with the Messenger of Allah until we arrived at Dhat al-Riqa` in a region of datepalms, where he met a detachment from Ghatafan." The Ghatafan are a Najdi tribe as shown by al-Tabari's phrase: "Two thousand Najdis coming from Ghatafan,"23 and Ibn al-Qayyim states: "Then he raised a campaign against Najd, aiming at the Ghatafan."24 This tribe is famous for two facts:

Before Islam the Jews of Khaybar vanquished them by making tawassul through the Prophet as stated by Ibn al-Qayyim in Hidayat al-Hayara (p. 18) in explaining the verse (And when there came to them a (true) Book from Allah the Qur'an) verifying that which they have (the Torah), and aforetime (before the Qur'an was revealed) they used to pray for victory against those who disbelieve (saying: O Allah, grant us victory against them by the intermediary and help of the Prophet that is to be sent at the end of time), but when there came to them (the Prophet; the truth which they knew from the Torah, namely, the advent of the Prophet) that which they did not recognize, they disbelieved in him (due to envy and aversion to their loss of authority); so the curse of Allah is on the unbelievers( (2:89; Muhammad Shakir's translation together with Tafsir al-Jalalayn);

After Islam, the Ghatafan were among the tribes that turned apostate and said the claims of the pseudo-prophet Tulayha al-Asadi were true.

(d) The famous hadith of the spoils from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri in the two Sahihs and the Sunan in which the Quraysh became angry and said: "He is giving to the nobility of Najd and leaving us out!" to which the Prophet replied: "I am only trying to win their hearts over to us." Then a man named Dhu al-Khuwaysira from the Banu Tamim came with sunken eyes, protruding cheeks, big forehead, profuse beard, and shaven head. He said: "Fear Allah, O Muhammad!" Etc. which ends with the prophecy that "Out of that man's seed shall come a people who will recite the Qur'an but it will not go past their throats. They will pass through religion the way an arrow passes through its quarry. They shall kill the Muslims and leave the idolaters alone. If I live to see them, verily I shall kill them the way the tribe of `Ad was killed."

It is also established in the authentic Sunna that after Abu Talib's death by about three years, in the 10th year of the Hijra, on the actual night that the Prophet was preparing to leave Makka for Madina, the plot to kill him by the collective hand of a conspiracy of the tribes was hatched up by Iblis in the guise of a venerable old man (shaykh jalîl) who, when asked who he was, simply answered "An old man from Najd" (shaykhun min Najd). The reports go on to refer to him as "The Old Man from Najd" (al-shaykh al-najdî).25

At any rate, the above explanations prove that those who say that Najd in the hadith denotes present-day Iraq exclusively of present-day Najd26 are mistaken, as Najd at that time included not only Iraq but also - as in our present time - everything East of Madina, especially the regions far South of Iraq. The proof for this is the hadith whereby the Prophet pointed to Yemen and said: "Verily, belief is there; but hardness and coarseness of heart is with the blaring farmers (al-faddadîn), the people of many camels, where the two sides of the head of Shaytân shall appear, among [the tribes of] Rabi`a and Mudar."27 Ibn Hajar identified these two tribes as "the most prestigious of the people of the East, the Quraysh - from which the Prophet is issued - being a branch of Mudar."28 This is confirmed by al-Bukhari's narration in seven places and Muslim's in six, from Ibn `Umar, that the East (al-Mashriq) is the origin of dissension and the place where the side of the head of Shaytân would appear - or two sides in one narration of Muslim. The fact that Muslim narrated that Salim ibn `Abd Allah ibn `Umar applied this hadith to the people of Iraq does not limit its meaning to them. It only confirms that the Prophet foresaw the dissension of the Khawârij among other dissensions hailing from the East, such as that of Musaylima the Liar and others: Ibn `Abidin said: "The name of Khawârij is applied to those who part ways with Muslims and declare them disbelievers, as took place in our time with the followers of Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab who came out of Najd and attacked the Two Noble Sanctuaries."29

Another proof is that the Prophet set Qarn al-Manazil as the starting-point (mîqât) for the state of consecration (ihrâm) for pilgrims coming from Najd, which in his time included Iraq, although Islam had not yet reached the latter. Later, the people of Iraq, finding Qarn al-Manazil too far out of the way for them, asked for something nearer, whereupon `Umar - Allah be well-pleased with him - set Dhatu `Irqin (Kufa) as their mîqât as established in the following narrations:

a) "The Prophet declared that the ihrâm of the people of Madina starts at Dhu al-Hulayfa; that of the people of Shâm starts at al-Juhfa; that of the people of Najd starts at Qarn al-Manazil; and that of the people of Yemen starts at Yalamlama."30 Al-Nawawi said: "Qarn al-Manazil is the mountain of that name. Between it and Mecca on the East lies a distance of two legs of journey."31

b) "When these two cities were conquered - al-Basra and al-Kufa - they came to `Umar ibn al-Khattab and said: `O Commander of the Believers, the Messenger of Allah gave Qarn as a limit to the people of Najd, and it is out of our way, so that if we want to go to Qarn it creates hardship for us.' `Umar replied: `See what lies nearest to it on your way.' So he determined Dhatu `Irqin as a limit for them."32 Ibn al-Athir said: "Ibn `Abbas said: `At Dhatu `Irqin, facing Qarn,' Dhatu `Irqin being the mîqât of the people of Iraq, and Qarn that of the people of Najd, and they are equidistant from the Haram."33

On the foregoing evidence one might make a case that Najd is synonymous with Iraq in the hadith in the general sense of the immediate East in relation to Madina. This view is supported by other narrations of the hadith "bless us in our Shâm and our Yemen" in which the terms "East" and "Iraq" are used interchangeably in the place of Najd:

a) The Prophet said: "O Allah! Bless us in our Shâm and our Yemen!" A man said: "And our East, O Messenger of Allah!" The Prophet repeated his invocation twice, and the man twice said: "And our East, O Messenger of Allah!" whereupon the Prophet said: "Thence shall issue the side of the head of Shaytân. In it are nine tenths of disbelief. In it is the incurable disease (al-dâ' al-`addâl)."34

b) The Prophet said: "O Allah! Bless us in our sâ` and in our mudd (i.e. in every measure)! Bless us in our Mecca and our Madina! Bless us in our Shâm and our Yemen!" A man said: "O Prophet of Allah, and our Iraq!" The Prophet said: "In it is the side of the head of Shaytân. In it shall dissensions heave. Verily, disrespect (al-jafâ') lies in the East."35

17. The Prophet said: "A huge fire shall issue from Hadramawt - or: from the direction of the sea of Hadramawt - before the Day of Resurrection, which shall cause a great movement of people." They said: "O Messenger of Allah! What do you order us to do at that time?" He said: "You must go to Shâm."36

18. The Prophet said: "It shall reach the point when you will all be joining [opposite] armies: one army in al-Shâm, one in Yemen, and one in Iraq." `Abd Allah ibn Hawala said: "Choose for me, O Messenger of Allah! in case I live to see that day." The Prophet said: "You must join al-Shâm, for it is the chosen land of Allah in His earth. In it shall the chosen ones among His servants have protection. Otherwise, go to Yemen but be prepared to drink from still water. For Allah has given me a guarantee concerning Shâm and its people." `Abd Allah ibn Hawala would add after narrating the above: "And whoever has Allah as his guarantor shall suffer no loss."37 Another version states that some Companions said: "We are herdsmen, we cannot adapt to Shâm," whereby the Prophet said: "Whoever cannot adapt to Shâm, let him go to Yemen. Verily, Allah has given me a guarantee concerning Shâm."38

19. In another version Ibn Hawala states: "When he noticed my dislike for Shâm he said: `Do you know what Allah says about Shâm? Verily, Allah said: O Shâm, you are the quintessence (safwa) of My lands and I shall inhabit you with the chosen ones among My servants."39 Ibn al-Athir defines safw and safwa in his dictionary al-Nihaya as "the best of any matter, its quintessence, and purest part."40

20. Related to the events mentioned by the Prophet above is his hadith: "Strife shall take place after the death of a Caliph. A man of the people of Madina will come forth flying to Mecca. Some of the people of Mecca will come to him, bring him out against his will and swear allegiance to him between the Corner and the Maqâm. An expeditionary force will then be sent against him from Shâm but will be swallowed up in the desert between Mecca and Madina, and when the people see that, the Substitutes (Abdâl) of Shâm and the best people of Iraq shall come to him and swear allegiance to him..."41

NOTES

1Narrated from Zayd ibn Thabit al-Ansari by al-Tirmidhi in his Sunan (hasan gharîb) with a fair chain because of Yahya ibn Ayyub al-Ghafiqi who is merely "truthful" (sadûq) as in al-Arna'ut and Ma`ruf's al-Tahrir (4:78 #7511); Ahmad with two chains, one of which is sound according to Ibn al-Qayyim in his commentary on Abu Dawud's Sunan (7:115), the other is a fair chain because of `Abd Allah ibn Lahi`a; al-Hakim (2:229; 1990 ed. 2:249) who said it is sahîh and al-Dhahabi concurred; al-Bayhaqi in the Shu`ab (2:432); Ibn Abi Shayba (4:218, 6:409); Ibn Hibban (16:293) with a sound chain meeting Muslim's criterion according to Shaykh Shu`ayb al-Arna'ut; and al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (5:158 #4935) with a sound chain according to al-Haythami (10:60) and al-Mundhiri in al-Targhib (1997 ed. 4:30).

2Ibn `Abd al-Salam, Targhib Ahl al-Islam (p. 21).

3Narrated from Salama ibn Nufayl by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (7:53 #6358) with a sound chain as indicated by al-Haythami (10:60).

4Narrated from Salama ibn Nufayl by Ahmad with a fair chain, al-Nasa'i with a sound (sahîh) chain, Ibn Sa`d (7:427-428), and al-Bukhari in his Tarikh al-Kabir (4:70), the latter with the addition: "and I find the breath of the Merciful coming from over there [i.e. Yemen]." Also narrated from al-`Irbad ibn Sariya and al-Nuwwas ibn Sam`an by Ibn `Asakir in his Tarikh (1:70, 1:105-106). A forged mursal report narrated from the Tâbi`î Kathir ibn Murra al-Hadrami by Nu`aym ibn Hammad (d. 228) in Kitab al-Fitan (1:254) states that the Prophet said: "Lo! Verily, the heartland of the Abode of Islam is al-Shâm. Allah leads to it the quintessence of His servants. None earnestly desires to live in it except a beneficiary of divine mercy, and none earnestly desires to live away from it except one seduced by sin. Allah trains His gaze upon it since the beginning of time until the end of time, with shade and rain. Even if He makes its people needy of money, He never made them needy of bread nor water." Its chain contains Sa`id ibn Sinan who is discarded as a narrator because of his forgeries, but I cited it because its last sentence is true from general obervation, and its first two sentences are confirmed in sound narrations. See also below, hadith #38.

5Ibn `Abd al-Salam, Targhib Ahl al-Islam (p. 20).

6Narrated from Abu al-Darda' through Abu Muti` Mu`awiya ibn Yahya from Artah ibn al-Mundhir from someone unnamed from Abu al-Darda' by al-Tabarani, the rest being trustworthy, as stated by al-Haythami (10:60), Artah himself being highly trustworthy, and Muti` fair as stated by al-Mundhiri in al-Targhib (1997 ed. 4:32 = 1994 ed. 4:106 #4514). The hadith is further strengthened by Ibn `Asakir's chain in Ta`ziya al-Muslim (p. 75) from Sa`id al-Bajali from Shahr ibn Hawshab (cf. n. 1636) from Abu al-Darda' and by hadiths #23-26 and 32 below.

7Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Abu Ya`la in his Musnad and by al-Tabarani in al-Awsat, al-Haythami (10:60-61) indicating that the former chain is sound but the latter weak because of al-Walid ibn `Abbad, who is unknown. However, he is also in Abu Ya`la's chain and Ibn `Adi in al-Kamil (7:84) stated that this hadith is narrated only through him. The hadith is therefore weak with this chain and wording - although confirmed by the hadith #32 below - and mass-transmitted with the wording "A party of my Community shall not cease to remain victorious, standing for truth, until the Hour rises." See al-Kattani, Nazm al-Mutanathir (p. 141).

8In Sharh Sahih Muslim (1972 ed. 13:66).

9Narrated from `Abd Allah ibn `Amr by Muslim and Ahmad as part of a longer hadith.

10Narrated from `Uqba ibn `Amir by Muslim.

11Narrated from Ibn `Umar by al-Bukhari, al-Tirmidhi (hasan sahîh gharîb), and Ahmad with three chains, one of which with the addition: "And in it [Najd] are nine tenths of all evil."

12Cf. masud.co.uk

13Al-Nawawi in Tahrir al-Tanbih (p. 157, s.v. "najd").

14Ibn Hajar gave the opinion that Dhatu `Irqin is Kufa in Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 3:390).

15In al-Qamus al-Muhit, article al-Najd. See also Mu`jam al-Buldan.

16In Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 13:48).

17Ibn al-Athir, al-Nihaya, s.v. n-j-d.

18In Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 13:48).

19Ibn al-Athir, al-Nihaya, s.v. `-r-q.

20In Yaqut al-Hamawi (d. 626), Mu`jam al-Buldan (1:192, 2:219).

21Narrated by al-Tabari in his Tarikh (2:81) and - in parts - from Anas by al-Bukhari; al-Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra (9:225 #18587), Abu Ya`la (5:448), Ahmad, al-Tahawi in Sharh Ma`ani al-Athar (1:244 waj`al qulûbahum `alâ qulubi nisâ'a kawâfir). The story is told in al-Buti, Fiqh al-Sira (p. 254-255).

22In al-Rihla fi Talab al-Hadith (p. 191).

23Tarikh (2:384).

24Zad al-Ma`ad (3:190).

25Ibn Hisham, al-Sira al-Nabawiyya (3:6-8); al-Tabari, Tafsir (9:227-228) and Tarikh (1:566-567); Ibn Kathir, Tafsir ("sahîh" 2:303 on verse 8:30) and al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya; al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur (verse 8:30).

26Cf. al-Albani in his notes on al-Raba`i, Fada'il al-Sham wa Dimashq (p. 6, 27).

27Narrated from Abu Mas`ud by al-Bukhari in three places and Muslim.

28Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 6:531). The first words of al-Busiri's Qasida Mudariyya are: "O our Lord! Send Your blessings on the Elect One of Mudar" (Ya rabbî salli `alâ al-mukhtâri min mudarin).

29Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar `ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar (3:309), Bab al-Bughat [Chapter on Rebels].

30Narrated from Ibn `Abbas by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

31Al-Nawawi, Tahrir al-Tanbih (p. 157, s.v. "qarn"). Al-Shawkani in Nayl al-Awtar (4:295) said the same.

32Narrated from Ibn `Umar by al-Bukhari.

33In al-Nihaya s.v. h-dh-y.

34Narrated from Ibn `Umar by al-Tabarani in al-Awsat (2:529 #1910) with a sound chain as indicated by al-Haythami (3:305).

35Narrated from Ibn `Abbas by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (12:84 #12553) with a sound chain as indicated by al-Haythami (3:305). Abu Nu`aym narrates something similar in the Hilya (1985 ed. 6:133).

36Narrated from Ibn `Umar by al-Tirmidhi (hasan gharîb sahîh) who added that it is also narrated from Hudhayfa ibn Asid, Anas, Abu Hurayra, and Abu Dharr. Also narrated from Ibn `Umar by Ahmad with five chains, Ibn Hibban (16:294) with a sound chain meeting al-Bukhari's criterion according to Shaykh Shu`ayb al-Arna'ut, Ibn Abi Shayba (7:471), Ibn Tahman in his Mashyakha (#201), and Abu Ya`la in his Musnad (9:405) with a sound chain as stated by al-Haythami (10:61).

37Narrated from `Abd Allah ibn Hawala by Abu Dawud and Ahmad with sound chains, Ibn Hibban (16:295), al-Hakim (4:510; 1990 ed. 4:555) who said it is sahîh and al-Dhahabi concurred, al-Tahawi in Mushkil al-Athar (2:35), al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra (9:179), and Ibn `Abd al-Salam in Targhib Ahl al-Islam (p. 15). Also narrated from Abu al-Darda' by al-Bazzar and al-Tabarani with a sound chain as indicated by al-Haythami (10:58) after al-Mundhiri in al-Targhib (1997 ed. 4:30). Something similar is narrated from `Abd Allah ibn Yazid by al-Tabarani with a very weak chain as indicated by al-Haythami (10:58) and from Wathila ibn al-Asqa` by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (22:55-58), specifying that those who were asking the Prophet were Mu`adh and Hudhayfa. Al-Haythami (10:59) stated that all al-Tabarani's chains of the latter narration were weak. Shaykh Ahmad al-Ghumari in al-Mughir (p. 71) declared this hadith forged by Mu`awiya's - Allah be well-pleased with him - supporters against `Ali - Allah be well-pleased with him -!

38Narrated from Abu al-Darda' by al-Bazzar and al-Tabarani with a sound chain as indicated by al-Haythami (10:58).

39Narrated by al-Tabarani with two chains of which one is fair according to al-Mundhiri in al-Targhib (1997 ed. 4:30). Something similar is narrated from al-`Irbad ibn Sariya by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (18:251) with a sound chain according to al-Mundhiri in al-Targhib (1997 ed. 4:30) and al-Haythami (10:58), chapter entitled Fada'il al-Sham, and from Ibn `Umar by al-Tabarani and al-Bazzar with a weak chain according to al-Suyuti in al-Durr al-Manthur. Al-Suyuti also said that Ibn `Asakir narrated it from Thabit ibn Ma`bad.

40The Prophet also compared the world to a little rain water on a mountain plateau of which the safw had already been drunk and from which only the kadar or dregs remained. Narrated from Ibn Mas`ud by Ibn `Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq. Al-Huwjiri and al-Qushayri mention it in their chapters on tasawwuf respectively in Kashf al-Mahjub and al-Risala al-Qushayriyya.

41Narrated from Umm Salama by Abu Dawud through three different good chains in his Sunan, Ahmad, Ibn Abi Shayba, Abu Ya`la in his Musnad (12:369 #6940) with a fair chain according to Shaykh Husayn Asad, al-Tabarani in al-Awsat (2:89 #1175) and al-Kabir (23:389-390 #930-931), al-Hakim, Ibn Hibban (15:158-159 #6757) with a weak chain because of Muhammad ibn Yazid ibn Rufa`a - but he has been corroborated - and al-Bayhaqi.

Continued [after part 20]

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