Hadith 9. Excessive questioning

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah Abdur’Rahman ibn Sakhr (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saying”: “What I have forbidden you, stay away from. What I have ordered you to do, do as much of it as you can. Verily, the people before you were destroyed only because of their excessive questioning and their disagreeing with their prophets”.

Reported in Bukhari and Muslim

Brief Commentary:

  • This hadith teaches us the causes which can lead to our destruction
  • From the wording of the hadith, we can see that it is more stressed to stay away from prohibition than fulfil commandment. This is because the prophet (peace be upon him) told us to stay away from prohibitions, but when it came to commandments, he said “do as much of it as you can”
  • A prohibition includes haram and disliked actions as both have been prohibited, but the prohibition for haram actions was stricter. Therefore, we shouldn’t look at disliked actions in a light way and remember that they have been prohibited by Allah and His messenger (peace be upon him)
  • A commandment includes obligatory and sunnah actions, hence the part “do as much of it as you can” is referring to sunnah actions as it is inexcusable to leave out obligatory actions and try use this hadith as evidence
  • Some of the salaf used to say “Actions of piety are carried out by the pious and the sinner, but sins are only avoided by the truthful” i.e. The sinners may do good deeds, but it is difficult for them to leave out sins, hence only the righteous can abstain from sins
  • Ibn Umar (May Allah be pleased with them both) used to say, “To return a daniq (a sixth of a dirham) of haram is better than 100,000 spent in the sake of Allah” i.e. It is better to avoid haram than do good
  • The principle that it is better to stay away from prohibitions that fulfil commandments is a general principle and cannot be used in all situations, as there are some instances where doing good is more virtuous/stressed than leaving a sin e.g. Adam did not stay away from a prohibition, and Iblis did not fulfil a commandment, yet Iblis received a bigger punishment
  • We may find doing a certain commandment to be quite difficult but we should remember that the prophet (peace be upon him) said to Ayeshah, “Your reward is of the magnitude of your exertion (of effort)” (Reported in Muslim), so the harder we find doing a certain action, the more we will be rewarded insha’Allah
  • The hadith doesn’t mean we should not ask questions, but is referring to:
    • Questions which are of no benefit
    • Those about things that have not happened
    • Those that had the prophet (peace be upon him) answered, it would have brought about difficulty for us e.g. the man asking the prophet (peace be upon him) if hajj is compulsory every year. Had the prophet (peace be upon him) answered, he may have said yes and it would have been very difficult for us
    • Excessive questioning as it can lead to people disobeying Allah
  • From the hadith, we can see that excessive questioning is a sign that a person is not staying away from what is prohibited or not doing what he has been commanded to do

Benefits and Action points to take from this hadith:

  • We should perform more pious actions and should shy away from excessive questioning for actions are preferred over speech
  • We should have more love for Allah as He has not burdened us with what we cannot bear
  • We should have more love for His messenger (peace be upon him) as he had mercy on us and warned us from falling into destruction
  • We should distance ourselves from evil actions in its entirety as the hadith said “stay away from” and did not say stay away from it as much as you can
  • We should avoid prohibitions no matter how small they are, remembering the statement of Ibn Umar above
  • We should never go against anything that the prophet (peace be upon him) told us because this was the reason for the destruction of the previous nations and could be the reason for our destruction

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