Opinion Editorials, February 2004, www.aljazeerah.info
Highlighting the Best Characteristics
Arab News, 2/21/04
We are looking today at a long Hadith related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad which speaks of the Abd Al-Qays delegation’s visit to the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Madinah. Members of the delegation were from a tribe living in the eastern provinces of today’s Saudi Arabia, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) had some correspondence with them, starting when one of their numbers, Munqidh ibn Hayyan, visited Madinah on a trade trip. The Prophet explained the message of Islam to him and he accepted the faith, as we mentioned last week. The Hadith quotes a member of the delegation who reports:
“When we decided on visiting Madinah, we set out on our trip. Shortly before our arrival, we met a man riding fast on a young camel of his. He greeted us and we replied to him. He stopped and asked us to which tribe we belonged. We said: ‘We are a delegation from Abd Al-Qays.’ He said: ‘You are welcome here. I have come on purpose to see you and to give you a happy news. The Prophet said to us yesterday as he looked to the east: ‘You will receive tomorrow the best Arab delegation, coming from this eastern side.’ I was restless through the night. So, early in the morning I prepared my camel and set out fast for a time. Then I thought that I should start on my journey back home, when the first of your camels appeared.
“He then turned his camel back and sped on his way home, until he arrived and met the Prophet who was sitting with a number of his companions from both the Muhajireen and the Ansar. Addressing the Prophet, he said: ‘May my parents be sacrificed for your sake! I have come to give you the news of the arrival of the Abd Al-Qays delegation.’ He said: ‘How do you know about them, Umar?’ Answered he: ‘They are following me fast. They will be here in no time.’ He mentioned how he saw them. The Prophet said to him: ‘May God give you happy news.’ The people with the Prophet began to prepare themselves to receive the newcomers. The Prophet was seated, and he put the end of his robes under his hand and reclined, stretching his legs.
“The delegation arrived and both the Muhajireen and the Ansar were delighted to see them. When the new arrivals saw the Prophet and his companions, they let their mounts free and came forward speedily. The seated people moved to give them space to sit while the Prophet remained reclining. A man from among them, nicknamed Al-Ashajj, but known as Mundhir ibn A’idh ibn Mundhir stayed behind. He collected their camels, sat them down and relieved them of their loads gathering it all together. He then took out a box of his luggage and changed his traveling clothes and put on a suit of his best garments. He came toward the Prophet walking calmly. The Prophet asked them: ‘Who is your chief and the one whose lead you follow?’ They all pointed to Mundhir. The Prophet asked: ‘Is he the descendant of your chiefs?’
“They said: ‘In pre-Islamic days, his forefathers were our chiefs, and it was he who has led us to Islam.’ When the man drew near, he wanted to sit at a corner, but the Prophet sat up and said to him: ‘Come and sit here, Ashajj.’ (This was the first time he was nicknamed Al-Ashajj, which means ‘one with a cut in his forehead’. When he was an infant, a donkey hit him with its hoof, making a moon-like mark in his face). The Prophet sat him next to him and was very cordial to him, speaking to him at length.
“The people asked the Prophet many questions and he answered them all. As they were about to finish, the Prophet asked whether they still had some of the food they have carried with them. They answered in the affirmative, going fast to their luggage and each of them bringing some dates. They were all placed on a hide in front of him. He had with him a date branch stripped of its leaves which he used to hold in the middle. He pointed with it to a date container and said: ‘Do you call this kind Al-Ta’dood?’ They answered in the affirmative. He said: ‘And do you call this one Al-Sarafan?’ They said: ‘Indeed.’ He again asked: ‘Do you call this kind Al-Burni?’ They again answered: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘This is the best of your dates and the most ripe.’
“Some of the tribe’s elders say: ‘This last type was plentiful and we used to feed our camels and donkeys from it. But when we returned after this trip, we were keen to grow more of it until it became our main dates and we found out that it yielded blessed harvests.’”
We see how the Prophet spoke with these people asking them about matters of their own concern. This was customary with the Prophet, so that his guests would feel at ease. We also see how the Prophet’s companions took his word seriously, even when it did not refer to something related to religion. When the Prophet described a particular type of dates as the best and most beneficial, they concentrated on farming it, and soon began to yield its benefits.
Another authentic version of this Hadith mention that Al-Ashajj said to the Prophet: “Messenger of God! Our land is heavy and polluted. Unless we have our wine drinks, we change color and our tummies bulge out.” The Prophet said: “Do not drink Al-Dubba, Al-Hantam or Al-Naqeer. On the contrary, drink in a container whose mouth can be sealed.” Al-Ashajj said: “May my parents be sacrificed for your sake! Give us a concession of this (pointing with his palms to indicate a small amount).”
The Prophet said: “If I were to give you such a concession, you will drink it in something similar to this (pointing with his hands wide to indicate a large amount). Then when one of you gets drunk, he would stand up to his cousin and hit his leg with his sword.”
This was a reference to an incident that happened sometime back when a group of them were drinking in a house. One of the group, called Al-Harith, said a line of poetry mentioning a woman of that same household.
Qutham ibn Jahm, a relative of hers, was angry and he hit him with his sword on his leg, injuring him. Al-Harith was present with the delegation when this conversation was taking place between the Prophet and Al-Ashajj.
He said: “When I heard the Prophet mentioning this incident, I tried to hide the mark of the strike on my leg with my robes, but God had revealed it all to His Messenger.”
By referring to an incident that took place in their midst and of which they were all aware, the Prophet highlighted some of the terrible effects of drinking.
There could have been no compromise or concession on drinking. But the Prophet wanted to make the strict prohibition more graphic by highlighting the evil consequences of drinking.
Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.