Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Death of Najashi - The Grand Negus

CHAPTER 4. A man who informs the relatives of the deceased person (of his death) by himself. 638. عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ: أَنّ رَسُولَ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم نَعى النّجَاشِيّ في الْيَوْمِ الّذِي ماتَ فِيهِ, خَرَجَ إِلَى المُصَلّى, فَصَفّ بِهِمْ, وَكَبّرَ أَرْبَعًا. رواه البخاري: 1245
638. Narrated Abu Huraira رضى الله عنه : Allâh's Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم informed (the people) about the death of AnNajâshi on the very day he died. He went towards the Musalla (praying place) and the people stood behind him in rows. He said four TakbIrs (i.e. offered the funeral prayer). (2:337O.B.)

Chapter 4 – Chapter of the man who conveys the news of the death of the deceased to the family himself.

These are notes from Lesson 164 where Shaykh Riyadh ul Haq commented on Hadeeth 638. This chapter deals with the permissibility of announcing to people of the death of their loved one. In Arabic, the word na’ee is used to refer to informing people of their loved one’s death. The reason why Imam Bukhari (رحمة الله عليه) addresses this topic with the chapter heading is because the word na’ee has been used in a couple of hadeeth in terms of prohibition. In one hadeeth, Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) refers to it as being a part of jahiliya. In another hadeeth, Hudaifah (رضى الله عنه) tells people not to inform others of his death because he heard the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) say it is impermissible. Due to these narrations, a few scholars of the very early generations said it was impermissible. Later, the majority said it was permissible. It should be noted that the Arabs would do na’ee in a very melodramatic fashion e.g. by hiring people to simulate wailing etc. It is this type of na’ee which is impermissible. Na’ee which is just informing loved ones of the deceased in a responsible manner is allowed. It should be done with the intention of informing people so that they will take part in the Jinazah salah and will pray for the forgiveness of the deceased.

Hadeeth 638 records the incident when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) personally announced the death of An-Najashi. Najashi was the Abyssinian king at the time of Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم). Abyssinia is present-day Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Abyssinia was a major empire at the time. Najashi was the generic title used to refer to the grand ruler of Aksoum (a major state of Abyssinia). The rulers of all other states paid homage to Najashi, the Grand Negus (King of Kings). The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) told the sahabah to do hijrah from Makkah to Abyssinia as he told them that there is a just king ruling there. The Quraish also visited Najashi and had an audience with him trying to convince him that the Muslims should be expelled from his land. On the first day, they failed to convince him. So, on the second day they tried to provoke Najashi, and told him to ask the Muslims of their viewpoint on Isa (عليه السلام), as Christianity was the official religion and the Abyssinians believed in the trinity. The believers who were present, namely Jafar ibn Abu Talib (رضى الله عنه), recited verses of the Quran which state that Isa (عليه السلام) is not the son of God. These words had a huge impact on Najashi and he wept and affirmed that Isa (عليه السلام) is not the son of God.

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and the sahabah had held Najashi is high esteem because he was a person of the book but he had onot been invited to Islam till the 6th year of Hijrah when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) sent him a letter inviting him to embrace Islam. He was on his throne when he received the letter, and upon receiving it he fell to his knees and kissed the letter and then placed it on his eyes. He then embraced Islam at the hands of Jafar ibn Abu Talib (رضى الله عنه). Najashi wrote back to Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saying that he had embraced at the hands of Jafar ibn Abu Talib (رضى الله عنه) but was unable to visit Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) so he was sending his son and 80 prominent Abyssinians. A great tragedy occurred and most of this group drowned in the red sea. Najashi’s nephew and the messenger who delivered the letter survived and made it safely to Madinah. The nephew of Najashi remained in Madinah as one of the sahabah.

Different companions left Abyssinia at different times. Jafar ibn Abu Talib (رضى الله عنه) remained till the 7th year of Hijrah. It is most likely that Najashi passed away in the 8th year of Hijrah. Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was informed by Jibril (عليه السلام) and Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) made an announcement in the Masjid. He told the sahabah that ‘your pious brother Najashi has passed away in a land other than yours’. The sahabah were instructed to go the the musallah (see book of Eid notes for definition of the musallah) where the Jinazah of Najashi was performed. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal narrates a hadeeth in his musnad in which it is mentioned that the sahabah said that they felt the body was in front of them. Allah removed all barriers between Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and Najashi.

Some points of note/questions from this hadeeth are:

  1. Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) prayed Jinazah in the musallah and not the masjid. Is it permissible to perform the Jinazah salah in the masjid?
  2. Is Salat-al-Jinazah permissible when the body is absent?
  3. The sahabah stood in rows for the salah.
  4. How may takbirs in Jinazah salah? There are 4 according to the 4 schools of fiqh similar to this hadeeth.

The Hanafi and Maliki scholars say it is not permissible to pray Jinazah over someone whose body is not present. The Hanbai and Shafi scholars say it is permissible but there are conditions e.g. only within one month of the person passing away according to the Hanbali school of fiqh.

The Hanafi and Malike scholars say it is Makruh Tanzih (not close to haraam like Makruh Tahrim but better if avoided) to pray Salat-al-Jinazah in a masjid. The Shafi and Hanbali scholars say it is permissible.

With regards to point 2, Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) only did this for Najashi and it was as if the body was before Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) so this must be regarded as an exception. There is also one disputed narration about another sahabi, Muawiyah ibn Muawiyah (رضى الله عنه) - Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was in Tabuk when Muawiyah ibn Muawiyah (رضى الله عنه) passed away in Madinah. Jibril (عليه السلام) visited the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and informed him of the death. The distance between Tabuk and Madinah is approximately 900 miles. Jibril (عليه السلام) asked Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) whether he wished to pray Jinazah over Muawiyah ibn Muawiyah (رضى الله عنه). Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) replied affirmatively. It is narrated that 70,000 angels participated in the Jinazah salah. Jibril (عليه السلام) beat the earth with his wings and levelled it so there was no barrier between Tabuk and Madinah. Jibril (عليه السلام) told Rasul (صلى الله عليه وسلم) that Muawiyah ibn Muawiyah (رضى الله عنه) had received this honour due to his great love of Surah Ahad. The majority of scholars do not accept da’eef (weak) narrations for determination of Islamic law but for encouragement, virtues etc, da’eef hadeeth are accepted.

May Allah preserve the Shaykh. I seek forgiveness for any errors I made have made in my note-taking.